Your Place or Mine Review | A Piece of Cake

by Andrew Parker

One’s enjoyment of the easily digestible rom-com Your Place or Mine will depend entirely on your tolerance for genre cliches. There’s a distinct familiarity to the first feature from writer-director Aline Brosh McKenna (creator of cult favourite television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), and if you’re willing to accept the fact that Your Place or Mine fits these gentle conventions like an old, well worn sweater, you’ll likely enjoy yourself for the better part of two hours. If you don’t like that sort of thing, you’ll likely shut this thing off before the opening credits have finished up. For me, I can handle cliches – no matter how many are piled on – if they’re done well, and Your Place or Mine is a case where all of these moments are handled nicely and with a good amount of humour.

Debbie (Reese Witherspoon) and Peter (Ashton Kutcher) have been best friends since going to college together, even though they live on opposite coasts now. Although they hooked up once back in school, they’ve fallen into the typical best friend relationship where they routinely talk for hours about matters both important and trivial. They’ve forged their own paths since school. Debbie, a single mother who lives in Los Angeles, has abandoned her once adventurous ways and settled for a life of safe sensibility, working at her teenage son’s high school. Peter, a recovering alcoholic, abandoned his dreams of becoming a writer long ago, opting for a cushy, well paying corporate fixer gig in New York City, and never holding down a relationship that ever lasts more than six months. Debbie plans to travel to New York and crash at Peter’s place in order to take some classes that could nab her a big promotion at work. When the woman who’s supposed to be keeping an eye on Debbie’s son, Jack (Wesley Kimmel), cancels at the last second, Peter offers to fly out to LA and take care of things while mom does her work from his place in New York.

It’s clear from the opening moments of Your Place or Mine that these characters are still very much into each other, despite all the time and distance between them. McKenna isn’t trying to hide anything or pull one over on the audience. Astute viewers and rom-com aficionados will know precisely what they’re in for mere moments into the film. McKenna and her well cast leads are more than willing to give the viewer some credit here. Your Place or Mine plays things relatively straight, but subtly acknowledging that this is all meant in good, heart swelling, wish fulfilling fun. Taking cues from the television series that launched her career – bright colours, slick editing, brisk pacing, sight gags, split screens, bursts of quirkiness that are refreshing rather than oppressive – McKenna confidently offers up an admittedly pedestrian, but wholly satisfying bit of genre filmmaking.

Despite some pronounced When Harry Met Sally vibes early on, Your Place or Mine isn’t taking inspiration from any single rom-com from years past, but rather mashing them all up into a single package that works far better than it probably should. There’s the obvious tale of lovers becoming friends and then hopefully realizing they can have things both ways and live happily ever after. There’s a narrative about a working woman trying to make her way in the world. There’s the story of a lifelong bachelor fumbling his way through caring for a kid. Instead of feeling broken up and choppy, the gambit of keeping Debbie and Peter away from each other as much as possible works to the film’s advantage. Kind of like Sleepless in Seattle, the romance works here because the viewer is able to first make a connection to both halves of this potential couple as individuals. If one can like these characters as people, then liking a relationship between the two of them becomes a lot easier.

Witherspoon and Kutcher waltz through Your Place or Mine with ease and good will, both of them more than capable of elevating the material and being as charming as humanly possible. And like most rom-coms, you can bet your bottom dollar that this thing will be chock full of recognizable character actors popping up as quirky side characters. Steve Zahn (the go-to for this sort of thing) plays Debbie’s mysterious, hippie neighbour/horticultural enthusiast. Zoe Chao steals all of her scenes as one of Peter’s sexy exes, who in a refreshing twist, is really kind and sweet towards Debbie during her time in New York. McKenna collaborator Rachel Bloom pops up for a spell as the budding actor who was supposed to look after Jack, Jesse Williams nicely inhabits his role as a smooth talking book editor Debbie crushes on, and Tig Notaro shows off her trademark deadpan chops as a mutual friend.

Will they or won’t they? That is the question from start to finish here, and the answer is rarely in doubt. To call Your Place or Mine a cinematic confection is spot on. It’s kind of like a well made cake. A great slice of cake won’t change the world, but it could make someone’s day just a tad bit brighter just by being there. Sometimes a slice of cake is what you want. Unless, of course, you’re allergic to or put off by the ingredients in the cake. If that’s the case, there are plenty of other confections out there for you.

Your Place or Mine streams on Netflix starting Friday, February 10, 2023.

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