Romantic comedies are one of life’s simple pleasures. The genre is defined by going through the motions. Telling the same stories repeatedly is a way to reassure the viewers that things can really be as good as in the movies and that love is always possible for all of us. Of course, if we take everything at face value, then love is always possible if you are very handsome, as every character in these movies is. However, the hope of getting some of that fantasy in real life is always there, making us watch. Netflix‘s Your Place or Mine is here to give us that.
Your Place or Mine is a new romantic comedy arriving on Netflix this weekend. The film is directed by Aline Brosh McKenna and stars Ashton Kutcher, Resse Witherspoon, Zoë Chao, Jesse Williams, Tig Notaro, Wesley Kimmel, and Steve Zahn. The film tells the story of Debbie and Peter, two people who ended up sleeping together one night, only to find themselves becoming best friends. However, after spending more than 20 years being friends, an exchange of apartments and lives will put them on the road to being more than just friends once again.
If there is something that should be commendable about Your Place or Mine is that it is a romantic comedy where the two main characters barely spend time together. A more standard romantic comedy would put the two characters together, and then through their interactions, it would show us that they are meant to be together, even if they don’t realize it. However, Your Place or Mine does the opposite, putting each character as far away from the other as possible and then telling us why they should be together.
This approach to the genre is commendable. The movie is really trying to do things differently, and that is just something the genre needs so, so badly. However, the unique thing about the movie is also its biggest weakness. Because the characters barely spend time together during the entire film, it feels the need to tell us why they should be together. Telling is always less effective than actually seeing it, or even better, a combination of both. The main characters mostly speak to each other over the phone in awkward conversations that feel very much rehearsed.
Thankfully, the two main characters are accompanied by several other characters from each other’s lives. Tig Notaro, Zoë Chao, Steve Zahn, and Jesse Williams all bring a lot of flavor to the table, and it could be said that these characters are the ones who make this movie enjoyable to watch. Especially Zoë Chao, who gets paired with Witherspoon very early in the film. Chao’s presence is always welcome in every single project she is in; she is funny and stylish, and her charisma is just out of this world.
The rest of the cast fairs nicely, but Kutcher is clearly stuck with the less exciting storyline, while Witherspoon gets a more conventional rom-com subplot that works perfectly fine. The movie’s structure then clashes with its story. It tries to convince us at every moment that the conclusion to which it is going is the right choice and that it needs to happen. However, because the road to get there is barely felt, it might be hard to convince anyone. When the moment finally arrives, the chemistry is just not there, and what should be emotional ends up feeling cold and tame.
In terms of visuals, the movie is just content with rolling the camera and letting the actors do their thing. There is nothing wrong with this approach; if the characters are strong enough to carry the film by themselves, then getting into more flashy visuals could get in the way of the story. Sadly, the characters are not strong enough by themselves. If there’s a strong character to carry her own story, it is Chao’s Minka, but sadly, we are not following her.
The comedy is also relatively tame, and Chao once again steals almost every laugh thanks to her delivery. Meanwhile, Kutcher and Witherspoon’s characters are trapped in this limbo of indecision, making them very dull. When things finally start to come together for their own storylines, then the movie decides that it is time to wrap things up, and it ends. Leaving us with a sense that there is so much more than is left to be said, but we don’t have time for that. We cannot go over the two-hour mark.
In the end, Your Place or Mine is a fine rom-com that tries to do things differently in a genre that has barely changed for more than four long decades. This experiment with how the main characters are displayed in the story isn’t particularly successful, but at least the movie tried to make it work. The actors are doing what we all know they can do, so there is nothing surprising there. It might not become an instant classic, but at least is quite watchable if you are looking for something light to watch during the weekend.