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February 10, 2023 / Netflix

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Ashton Kutchen, Jesse Williams, Zoë Chao, Wesley Kimmel, Tig Notaro, Steve Zahn

Directed By: Aline Brosh McKenna

Debbie and Peter are best friends and total opposites. She craves routine with her son in LA; he thrives on change in NY. When they swap houses and lives for a week they discover what they think they want might not be what they really need.

Written By Darren

Rating 2.5 out of 5

Your Place or Mine has a truly charming cast led by Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher, and while the film has the best of intentions, keeping its main stars separate for the majority of the film dampers the romance and prevents it from becoming the new classic romantic comedy it strives to be.

Ever since the early 2000s, Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher have been two of the most consistent stars of the romantic comedy genre, and Netflix’s latest romantic comedy marks the first time the two stars have collaborated together. Instantly, this excited myself and fans of the genre because how could these two legends of the genre working together result in anything but a great film. Unfortunately, while both of them are commendable in their own regard throughout the film, the screenplay buries the romance, sucking the life out of the film instead of delivering the hilarious experience it should have been.

Despite a one time hookup twenty years ago in their past, Debbie and Peter have been best friends and have always been there for each other when they needed each other. So when Debbie’s babysitter bails on the night before heading out of town to take the next step in her career, Peter flies across the country to look after Debbie’s teenage son. However, as Debbie and Peter spend a week in each other’s home, they begin to re-evaluate their pasts and truly unpack what they mean to each other.

Romantic comedies have kept their main lovers apart from each other before. It is not an uncommon plot device, having brilliantly worked previously in Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle, however, this concept struggles to brew romantic tension between the two lead characters within this story. Watching two best friends fall for each other is not something out of the realm of possibility in the romantic comedy genre, but normally you are treated to these two best friends spending time together and audiences watching the undeniable true love between them. However, with Debbie and Peter being on opposite sides of the United States for all but two scenes of the film, it’s hard for that connection to build. Yes, Peter and Debbie share numerous phone calls and FaceTimes together, but you never feel the romance between them. Witherspoon and Kutcher do a great job of developing their feelings for each other, however you never see the potential and compatibility between the characters. It is the screenplay’s biggest pitfall, because without seeing the potential of this couple, it is hard to get emotionally invested in their happily ever after despite it fulfilling all the requirements that fans have come to expect from the genre.

In the lead roles, Witherspoon and Kutcher are serviceable. Both of them have a natural screen presence that has made them the stars they are today, with both of them deploying that natural charisma. Witherspoon is her high energy, delightful self that we have seen time and time again, capturing the struggles of this single mother looking for love with ease. But it's nothing new from her as an actress, having played many similar characters before. Kutcher plays his part cool, like many of the characters he has portrayed over the course of his career, and he is enjoyable and does exactly what is required of him. Their scenes together are cute, you can feel the natural chemistry between them bubbling beneath the surface while talking to each other. It is not until the film’s climactic scene where Witherspoon and Kutcher are in the same location, at which point the audience is treated to the brilliance of their pairing. There is an instant, fiery connection between them, that in the course of one scene ignites the passion that had been absent the entire film. This allows the film to deliver that memorable romantic comedy happy ending in one single scene, despite not having a worthy buildup to this moment. It’s just a shame as the scene, while great, is a glimpse into what the rest of the film could have been had Witherspoon and Kutcher been given more scenes together in the same location.

Much like the film’s two stars, the majority of the supporting cast is left with very little material to work with. Despite having a supporting cast that includes Jesse Williams, Steve Zahn, Tig Notaro, Griffin Matthews, Rachel Bloom and Vella Lovell, the lifeless script ultimately wastes their talents. However,  Zoë Chao graces the film with her incredible screen presence, which is ultimately the entire film’s saving grace! From the second she arrives on screen as Minka, Chao is an absolute spit fire, delivering hilarious one liners after another. She is the perfect, slightly inappropriate best friend which is a staple of the genre, instantly bringing the film to life once she appears in the second act. Her energy literally kept me watching the film, making me wish for the majority of its runtime that she had more scenes, which would have resulted in a more tolerable watch.

There is no denying that this film does not have its heart in the right place, with a safe romantic comedy story that checks off all the requirements of the genre. But, the physical distance imposed upon its lead characters prevents the romantic tension from building between Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher, making the central relationship of Your Place or Mine not rewarding, resulting in a lifeless film despite a scene stealing turn by Zoë Chao.

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