Your Place or Mine, by Aline Brosh McKenna, is reimagining consultant Peter: "To teach you to be more open to yourself than with your own ideas. Because the stories we tell ourselves are very limitless." However, the problem with setting up a film that initially assumes that two former lovers would make better long-distance best friends is that it's difficult to sell their love.
Debbie (Reese Witherspoon) and Kutcher's Peter would enrage Harry, since they've managed to have a good relationship for the past 20 years—to the point where their initial one-night stand is a distant chuckle. (Or is it?) Peter selflessly offers to travel across the United States and play his surrogate dad for a week, despite him being between consulting assignments and making boatloads of money.
The result is a tech-centric take on the 2006 Christmas classic The Holiday, in which these two seemingly opposites explore what might be missing in their lives: elegant Brooklyn chic for Debbie, who stumbles upon the chance to tap into her true desires of becoming a book editor by way of a prestigious publisher (Jesse Williams); and cozy Los Angeles, the one thing he cannot buy.
McKenna is well-known for her work in You Place or Mine, which features a number of quirky split-screen appearances. There are no real stakes or conflicts in this love story, although you already know who's bringing the pot home.
Because this duo's relationship is so authentically lived-in, especially after audiences have been seeing Witherspoon and Kutcher in their respective rom-coms since the early 2000s (McKenna even has confirmed this was by design), the characters in Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum are almost too similar.
From Steve Zahn as Debbie's eccentric gardener Zen to recent TV successes, Griffin Matthews (The Flight Attendant) and Britney Young (GLOW) are showing up on the East Coast. The simple way that the leads get along with each other's close friends and lovers—Peter and Alicia (Tig Notaro) taking Debbie out for fancy cocktails—clinches the argument that they should be settling down on the opposite coast.
Yet while these comeos enliven the film, they’re also a bit strange considering how many small roles there are. Shiri Appleby is particularly underused as an old Peter’s friend, making one wonder if the rest of her scene ended up on the cutting room floor. For instance, Peter flashes back to Debbie saying she was expecting a child.
Your Place or Mine might have benefited from seeing a lot more of the intervening 20 years, in part because it would have positioned Debbie and Peter in the exact same room. Yes, the film demonstrates that between text messages and FaceTime, one can still maintain that emotional intimacy. But, when you are in the room together, you have to make the proximity count.
It would have been nice to get more scenes like the opening make out session, or a Pop-Up Video-style with reminders of our most disastrous fashion choices in 2003. McKenna is so smart at working within a plot constraint, whether it be the high-stakes fashion world in Devil Wears Prada or all of the wedding trappings in 27 Dresses (debating the lyrics of "Benny and the Jets"?) that she might have leaned in more to her own narrative
Instead, they insist that they are such great friends that they've basically convinced us. Still, if you want to live happily through their equally idyllic lives, and make it so that McKenna gets to direct more of her own work, then this is still a sweet Valentine's delight from one of the genre's most talented voices.
The Complete View of Your Place or Mine is now available on Netflix.