Director: James C. Strouse
Starring: Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Jessica Williams
People, Places, Things is a new “New Yorky” film from New York, I Love You director James C Strouse. And it succeeds terrifically at being “New Yorky”. The film follows illustrator Will Henry, played by the beautiful Jemaine Clement, dealing with parenthood, heartbreak and loneliness, following his wife (Stephanie Allyne), leaving him.
It’s a small film; its ambitions are quaint and it follows a plotline that unfortunately leaves very little room for movement. But if you saw the trailer and seriously expected to feel anything but life-affirming pleasantries, then it’s your own fault and you’re silly. Beneath the lovely illustrations, fairly solid acting and the often-fantastic lines, the film does feel a little banal at times, but never enough to bore. Some sincere moments feel lame, and the perfectly ok cinematography makes the city seem a little clichéd, hitting on that idealized, I-want-to-move-and-be-a-creative-in-New-York familiarity. For a film that uses a literal classroom to explain the creator/audience relationship when interpreting a story, and directly talks about selective omission to make a story richer for the audience, People, Places, Things oddly leaves no element omitted at all.
For these generic criticisms however, its merits are rich as well, just hard to pin down. The post-separation troubles Will endures, including the way his hour and a half commute away from school affects his ability to be a good father, are often presented in realistically unromantic ways; despite its small scale and familiar scenes, the whole film engages you like a popcorn blockbuster; and I laughed a lot! The guy in the seat in front also rubbed against his partner at crucial moments and tried to get a cheeky kiss near the end. Plus, I’ve made many snarky comments despite the fact I have never been to New York, and… I can’t actually list that many “New Yorky” movies that present it quite as polished as this anyway… so go figure. Maybe it is that nice.
Basically, it’s really good if you like New York, or Rom-Coms that don’t have Jennifer Aniston-y people in it. Don’t expect to remember it forever though.
Words by Julian Grant