Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher, two of the biggest stars of the early aughts, teamed up in Netflix’s newest romcom “Your Place or Mine.” While many may expected that this film would be a smashing success full of wit and nostalgia, it misses the mark in almost every way.
The film begins in 2003 with a one-night stand between the main characters, Debbie and Peter. Then, it quickly cuts to 20 years later when Debbie and Peter are seemingly waking up beside each other in bed. Except they’re not, they’re talking on the phone while they lay in their separate beds across the country with Debbie as a single mother in her quaint Los Angeles home and Peter with his girlfriend in his giant, soulless Manhattan apartment.
Debbie is about to embark on a trip to New York City to complete a degree program and visit Peter, but when her babysitter bails last minute, Peter decides to fly to LA to become a babysitter for the week. Of course, hijinks ensue with Debbie submitting Peter’s secret book to highly-regarded editor Theo Martin and subsequently hooking up with him. Meanwhile, Peter learns to care for Debbie’s son, Jack, while breaking him out of Debbie’s iron fist.
Calling on the phone, FaceTiming or texting seems to make up the entirety of Debbie and Peter’s relationship. While their being geographically apart makes for some interesting and funny storylines individually, it doesn’t work to show chemistry or build romance. Really, the only time we see them physically together is in the short scene from 2003 and the final four minutes. It seems the writers thought that the 20 years of history that went on off-screen would be enough to convince the audience of the romance — but spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
While the constant use of phone calls is irksome and most of the comedy falls flat, the film’s biggest flaw is that the romance is unconvincing. I particularly didn’t enjoy Peter’s character — he came off as entitled and emotionally unavailable — and because they are so different, Peter and Debbie’s interactions irritated me.
The few times that I enjoyed the film were when Debbie and Peter were apart — Debbie learning to loosen up and having fun with Theo and Peter’s ex-fling, Minka, and Peter granting Jack some newfound freedom.
The moments when Peter and Debbie realize they are in love with each other have almost nothing to do with the other at all. Peter gets jealous when he learns that Debbie hooked up with Theo and has a friends-with-benefit situation with her neighbor, Zen. Debbie discovers that Peter kept a manila envelope of mementos, most of them tied back to Debbie, despite his constant declarations about hating mementos. Suddenly, Debbie realizes she’s in love with Peter too. Sure, that makes sense.
Everything culminates in a lunch date between Debbie and Theo where he offers Debbie her dream job as a book editor and Debbie tells Theo that she can’t be with him. Then, Peter calls Debbie when Jack sustains an ice hockey injury, a result of Peter’s laxity. Debbie is furious, and, in some universe, this would probably end their friendship. Alas, we are in the world of romcoms, so of course, there has to be a happy ending in here somewhere!
After Debbie and Peter complete a shouting match in LAX while on opposite conveyor belts, Debbie rediscovers in her bag the poker chip that Peter kept from the night they hooked up, and suddenly all is resolved. They confess their feelings, share a kiss and leave the airport together hand-in-hand. Never mind that Debbie felt betrayed by Peter only four minutes earlier. Because, yes, all of that did occur in the final four minutes. Pacing is not this film’s strong suit.
I can’t say I was expecting more from this film because, after all, Netflix is not known for its riveting romantic comedies. But with Witherspoon as the leading lady and her media company backing the film, I had hope that this film could prevail.
Netflix may be asking “Your place or mine?” My answer is neither.
Featured photo courtesy of Netflix, Youtube