Your Place or Mine asks the eternal question: Can a woman and man be best friends without also being lovers?
The answer to that is that of course they can. It happens all the time. The more important question is whether or not to physically attractive people can be friends without eventually falling love. The answer there is of course not. Being the most attractive person in your social circle means that you eventually have no choice but to pursue a relationship with the second most attractive person around. That’s just the way it works.
Your Place or Mine opens in 2003, with two attractive 20 somethings named Peter and Debbie having sex for the first and what they initially believe will be the final time. The action than jumps forward to 2023. Peter (Ashton Kutcher) lives in New York City and has seemingly given up his dream of being a writer. Instead, he makes a lot of money doing …. well, I’m not really sure what Peter’s job was. It had something to do with banking and it allowed him to afford a really big apartment. Meanwhile, Debbie (Reese Witherspoon) lives in Los Angeles. Recently divorced, she is the overprotective mother of 13 year-old Jack (Wesley Kimmel) and she is a teacher. Apparently she’s not supposed to be as rich as Jack but, for a teacher, she has a surprisingly big house. She also has eccentric neighbor, played by Steve Zahn and an eccentric co-worker played by Tig Notaro. Everyone was so eccentric that it made me miss the days when the lockdowns gave me an excuse not to talk to anyone.
Peter and Debbie are still best friends, even though they haven’t actually been in the same room together since 2008. Still, that’s about to change. Debbie’s coming to New York so that she can complete an accounting program and get a better job. (Ha! Take that, teachers!) However, when her eccentric babysitter is cast in a movie, it looks like Debbie will have to cancel because there won’t be anyone around to keep Jack from accidentally eating something with nuts in it. Peter, who has recently been dumped by his eccentric girlfriend and who is having a bit of a midlife crisis, volunteers to come to Los Angeles to look after Jack while Debbie goes to New York and stays in his apartment while taking her super-exciting accounting class.
Okay, let’s pause while I catch my breath. This is one of those comedies where it takes way too long to set up the central premise. Sometimes, it’s best to keep things simple.
Anyway, Peter bonds with Jack and helps him to find some confidence. Living in Debbie’s house, Peter realizes that he has always loved Debbie. Meanwhile, Debbie goes to New York, bonds with Peter’s eccentric ex-girlfriend (Zoe Chao), and discovers that Peter has written a novel! Debbie takes it upon herself to read the novel. She takes manuscript out of Peter’s apartment and is seen reading it at various New York locations. I found myself cringing as I worried that a sudden gust of wind would blow the pages away or maybe someone would spill coffee on it. (For all of Debbie’s happiness to discover that Peter is still writing, she’s not particularly careful with his manuscript.) Without talking to Peter, Debbie gives the manuscript to an eccentric publisher named Theo Martin (Jesse Williams) and explains that the story is about a 13 year-old boy who can’t go out in the sun. It sounds like an extremely dreary read but Theo is impressed with both the manuscript and with Debbie.
I usually enjoy romantic comedies and I like Reese Whitherspoon and I’m coming around on accepting the idea of Ashton Kutcher being a movie star (especially after his excellent performance in Vengeance) so I was really hoping that I would enjoy Your Place or Mine. Unfortunately, the film itself suffered from what I call the Apatow Syndrome, in that every character had to be quirky, every joke had to be repeated ad nauseum, and there was a deliberate awkwardness to the dialogue that got old pretty quickly. As individuals, Witherspoon and Kutcher were likable but I never really bought them as lifelong friends, much less a romantic couple. They just didn’t have the right spark. Unfortunately, Your Place or Mine just didn’t work for me.