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mattnews Reviews: Your Place or Mine

A day late and a dollar short, here’s my rom-com movie review for Valentine’s Day. Your Place or Mine is a slog of a movie. Boring, on-the-nose, expository dialogue plagues this film. I expected more from not only Reese Witherspoon, but Aline Brosh McKenna who gave us such great movies like The Devil Wears Prada and one of my personal favorites, 27 Dresses. This movie fails to deliver on…anything really. 

TL;DR – 0.5/5 – If you need random noise in the background while you do some spring cleaning I still wouldn’t recommend this movie. The only reason it even gets half of a point is that an entire crew of people came together to make it happen and I feel they deserve some kind of credit.

Synopsis: Ashton Kutcher and Reese Witherspoon star as two long-distance best friends who change each other’s lives when she decides to pursue a lifelong dream and he volunteers to keep an eye on her teenage son. If that sounds like a boring premise, that’s because it is. Let me not be so harsh. The premise isn’t the problem for this movie. The biggest problems that I will spend X number of paragraphs complaining about are atrocious dialogue and inconsequential scenes. 

This movie is the epitome of expositional dialogue. The characters talk as though they have done all these things and explain in vague generalities their personality, however, their actions and activities prove the opposite of who they are and what they say they’ve done. The most egregious scene to me is one where Kutcher’s character Peter Coleman (the most generic name for a male character) is sitting in front of, who I assume are two co-workers, and quits his job, or resigns, or something. Peter states, “Guys we’ve done a lot of great things in the past 6 months,” and I can only ask, “Have you? I didn’t see anything.”

There’s this “rule” in film writing that states “Show. Don’t Tell.” The rule is simply when you write you want to write visually. Instead of writing someone saying, “Hey guys we’ve done a lot of great stuff in the past 6th month,” as they sit in a board room literally doing nothing, you write them in a situation where they are doing whatever their occupation is. Peter Coleman looks to his colleagues and says, “I have to have a conversation with you guys.” We see that they are doing great work.

While watching this movie I was also very confused about what was going on. Reese Witherspoon’s character, Debbie Dunn, is coming to New York to take some kind of classes to further her generic successful career and visit her one-night stand turned best friend Peter Coleman for his birthday, but her babysitter lands a big role in a play and can’t watch her kid. Debbie almost cancels her trip, but Peter steps up and offers to watch her kid for her. He can stay in her house and she can stay in his, ala The Holiday. The stakes are so low in this movie there’s little to care about. All of the conflicts in this film is contrived and boring, and Reese Witherspoon and Kutcher have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. 

They are supposed to have this “known each other for years” vibe but the only backstory we get throughout this whole movie is a sex scene of them in the beginning. Then we see them on the phone talking about how long they’ve known each other, yes they have a literal conversation explaining to each other how long they’ve known each other, that they are best friends, and that they tell each other everything. 

Whenever we see them speaking on the phone it’s obvious they aren’t really talking to each other. I wouldn’t put it past the filmmakers to reveal they were just saying their lines whenever they felt the other would be finished. The way they speak sounded like people acting like they are on the phone when you walk into a room.

Again we’re never shown the relationship between Debbie and Peter, we’re told. At one point Debbie finds a manuscript of a book that Peter has written and she says, “He wrote a whole book without telling me? We tell each other everything!” While she holds a copy of a printed manuscript in her hand that she obviously didn’t know about. In case you missed it though Debbie says another time how they tell each other everything. I will reiterate this every few sentences, but again, the primary problem with this movie is that we are given all of the information through dialogue. Every scene is an exposition dump and we’re never shown anything backs-up, let alone establishes any information.

There’s a terrible scene during Debbie’s first night in Peter’s apartment where the neighbor, Minka, played by Zoe Chao, knocks on the front door with nothing on but a t-shirt. It’s obvious she’s only wearing a t-shirt, but while she walks into the apartment after Debbie opens the door she proclaims, “I’m literally weaning nothing under this.” 

When Peter arrives at Debbie’s house it is spackled with Post-It notes detailing how to take care of her son, a good visual way to show that Debbie is controlling, but that’s not good enough. Debbie calls and reiterates every Post-It that Peter picks up and reads. 

This movie allows zero visuals to stand on their own. Nothing happens purely for visual reasons. It’s all explained thoroughly in conversation. I think it should have been named “Conversation: The Movie”. The longest scene with no dialogue is a split-screen scene of the two of them going to bed, which doesn’t establish ANY new information.

There’s a “running joke” throughout the movie about Debbie’s suitcase. It’s a normal suitcase that rolls, but apparently everyone’s moved on from those because they keep telling her about a suitcase that rolls on four wheels, and they name it. I didn’t need to hear it two more times in random portions of the movie. I was afraid the joke was just something written into the movie with no payoff, but my fears were multiplied when I realized the payoff was much worse. Her suitcase gets caught in the moving sidewalk at the airport after she and Peter have a fight. She trips and finds a memento that Peter had given her a long time ago and this helps remind her of reasons not to be mad at him.

This movie is terrible and uninteresting. The exposition allows this movie to be enjoyed by the visually impaired without losing any of the experiences this movie has to offer or does not offer. If you ever get lost there are two separate scenes where supporting characters remind the main characters of everything they’ve done throughout the course of the film. They literally recount the entire plot. 

Movies like this make me hopeful to write my scripts because the quality of movies coming out today increases the chances of mine being made.


Author: mattnewsdotbiz

I’ve been a Christian for 20 years and I’ve found that while my views are shared throughout Christianity they aren’t usually shared within the same body of believers, meaning within the same denomination. This has always led me to believe that perhaps I’m getting something wrong, however lately I’ve felt that maybe the fact that my theology, and anthropology, “thoughts and opinions”, are shared throughout a much wider base that maybe I’m more right than I think. This is the conundrum I wish to explore by interviewing people, learning new things and attempting to articulate my point of view which has been lovingly dubbed, “mattnews”.

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