Reese Witherpoon and Ashton Kutcher play best friends who swap houses for one unexpectedly eventful and life-altering week in "Your Place or Mine," the new Netflix romantic comedy from writer and director Aline Brosh McKenna. The film is McKenna's directorial debut, but she already has several notable writing credits that include "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006), "Morning Glory" (2010) and "We Bought a Zoo" (2011).
"Your Place or Mine" lives and breathes through the likability of its two stars. Both Witherspoon and Kutcher have plenty of charm and they give us two characters who are fairly easy to root for. They have decent chemistry, although it's hard to gauge due to the fact that they're rarely on screen together (the vast majority of their interactions come through phone calls and FaceTimes). But for the most part, the always likable Witherspoon and the nicely toned down Kutcher have the ingredients for a winning pair.
But here's the issue. The film is plagued by a problem that comes baked into so many of these romantic comedies -- predictability. Within the first five minutes we know exactly how this story is going to end. Over the course of the movie we recognize many of the genre's usual character types. And even with a couple of noticeable diversions, the overall trajectory of the story follows the well-worn rom-com blueprint to a T. So we're left with a promising yet ultimately forgettable movie.
Debbie (Witherspoon) and Peter (Kutcher) have a close yet not-so-close friendship. They had a fling 20 years ago in Los Angeles and then Peter promptly left for New York (he claims it was due to his fear of earthquakes). But they stayed in touch, becoming long-distance best friends. During that time Debbie stayed in LA, got married, had a son, Jack (Wesley Kimmel), and got divorced. Peter became a successful business consultant and now lives in a swanky apartment overlooking the Manhattan Bridge.
Listening to them talk, you would think Debbie and Peter are two peas in a pod. But they're actually quite the opposite. Debbie plays things safe and is very by-the-numbers. She never takes chances and rarely makes time for herself despite the urging of her thoughtful (and dryly funny) friend Alicia (a really good Tig Notaro). Peter is a bit of a flake and can't get a firm grip on what he truly wants to do with his life.
Debbie is all set to come to New York for a writing class she has long put off, but her excitement and plans are put on hold after her sitter for Jack bails out on her. So Peter offers to fly over and watch Jack. He'll stay at her homey place in LA and she'll stay at his ultra-modern apartment in New York. While there, each gets a taste of the other's life. "We tell each other everything," they each repeat during their stay-overs. But both are surprised by how little they actually know about the other, including feelings that may go beyond friendship.
As Debbie and Peter have their considerably different adventures on opposite coasts, we're introduced to a collection of colorful characters including Debbie's wacky self-assigned gardener Zen (Steve Zahn), Peter's trendy and kooky neighbor Minka (Zoe Chao) who takes Debbie under her wing (despite not being asked), and a hunky literary editor named Theo (Jesse Williams) who Debbie immediately hits it off with. He's the romantic diversion that helps her to "see the light."
Within its smattering of hit-or-miss humor and a lot of songs from The Cars, "Your Place or Mine" has a pretty sweet center. The relationship between Peter and Jack is easily the funniest and warmest. Meanwhile Witherspoon and Kutcher manage enough chemistry despite spending the majority of their time "together" in split screen. But it's hard to shake the feelings of "we've seen it all before," and it simply doesn't have enough ideas of its own to be the slightest bit memorable. It'll probably work for its target audience. But for anyone else ... it probably won't.
75 Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Ashton Kutcher, Zoe Chao, Jesse Williams, Wesley Kimmel, Tig Notaro, Steve Zahn, Rachel Bloom, Griffin Matthews, Vella Lovell
Director: Aline Brosh McKenna
Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Streaming on Netflix