“I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
A quick glimpse into 2003 introduces us to Peter (Ashton Kutcher) and Debbie (Reese Witherspoon), awkwardly hooking up after a night out as Gwen Stefani’s song “The Sweet Escape” plays in the background. Flash forward 20 years and distance hasn’t kept them apart; most people in their lives would likely argue it’s only made them grow fonder. Phone calls are daily and long and revealing. They both pledge transparency but secretly hide bits and pieces here and there. And that’s why the film, despite all of its flaws, works as a romantic comedy. These are real people, scarred by the past and scared by the promise of tomorrow, and who falsely question the feelings steeped right under their nose; It’s all there in plain sight. They just have to get out of the way and breathe it in. Your Place or Mine knows that’s easier said than done.
Even after watching the film, I’m still not positive what either lead does for a living. Peter seems to be some kind of consultant, and apparently he’s convincing enough to live a lavish bachelor lifestyle, driving fancy cars and living high up in the NY skyline. Debbie is an accountant at her son Jack’s (Wesley Kimmel) school, which I only knew after reading the Wikipedia synopsis. What these characters do is inconsequential, and yet the film still functions because neither of them are defined by their professions. Most movies like this desperately need people to play and inhabit a part. To be a wedding planner, a columnist, a pushover male assistant, or a prostitute and businessman duo. Your Place or Mine emphasizes personality first, and that’s where these people meet and interact. Where they fall in and fall out. It’s realistic in that way, even though it isn’t in others.
Peter gets rightfully dumped on his birthday, just before Debbie is set to come for a short stay while completing a week long intensive accounting program, but that plan gets upended when Debbie’s LA babysitter finally lands an acting gig. She’s convinced the opportunity will just have to wait. But Peter is in between clients and is clearly reconsidering his own future, so he makes a proposition; Debbie goes to stay at his NY apartment while he looks after the allergic to everything and overprotected Jack at their house on the hill. Peter widens Jack’s worldview with the help of Alicia (Tig Notaro), who allows the now sober Peter to try to play the playboy role once again to no avail. New York inspires Debbie, and brings her the chance of a fleeting romance with the handsome book publisher Theo (Jesse Williams), and she does what most of us would. Your Place or Mine isn’t very complex, but it seems to understand how people authentically react and respond to these kinds of situations. It feels real even though it’s so obviously rehearsed.
Certain aspects of the film hold the whole thing back. Side characters are pawns and never integral pieces. And while so many movies seem to think they can completely fake a background, Your Place or Mine has some of the worst compositing I’ve seen of late. The color is off, the lighting doesn’t match, and it’s so clear we’re watching actors perform on a sterile green screen instead of a real set. Conversations on balconies look fake because everything in the background is fake, and it takes away from the acting being done in the foreground. And while the title insinuates the natural innuendo after a night out, I think it could have reinvented the phrase. Your Place or Mine is creative in its decision to keep the leads as far apart as a one hit wonder by The Proclaimers, and its blocking always makes sense as their disjointed worlds collide, trying to piece their puzzles together. These people care about each other. She goes into his home and learns about his ambitions. He goes into hers and understands her hardships. Your Place is Mine might’ve been a more apt title, but that’s just me.
“You look like you just felt an earthquake or something.”
Rating: 3 out of 5