Sunday, August 23, 2015

[Review] People Places Things

Jemaine Clement and Regina Hall star in this paradigmatic indie dramedy and low-key rom-com.

Within the first five minutes Will (Jemaine Clement) walks in on his longtime girlfriend Charlie (Stephanie Allyne) cheating on him. It's one of the calmer scenes of this nature to grace the screen, but it's apparent that their relationship has been on a trail of unhappiness, and questions about their kids' well-being arise after the split. Then we jump forward "One year later..."

Will is still in a rut, working on his graphic novels, struggling to be competent at his NYC professor job, and coping with seeing Charlie move on while he isn't over her. But one day, a student of his asks him over for dinner. In a play of awkward comedy, Will absolutely refuses (you know - the student/teacher rule), but she, appalled, clears things up and emphasizes that she wanted to set him up with her MOM(!) Diane (Regina Hall). Will and Diane manage to argue profusely and somewhat hit-it-off at the same time during their first date. And now, we're in-store for the usual character-driven indie elements--internal transformations, emotional arcs, and turning points. Or in other words--Is Will going to get his life on track? And are Will and Diane going to end up together?

Will is likable, if a bit plain as a character. He doesn't necessarily possess a factor that makes him an overtly interesting standout or particularly memorable. But he does present endearing moments. During his twin daughters' birthdays he announces "I got you iPads!" as he holds up a pair of kites.
The midsection of the narrative actually reflects the main character--It's meandering and lacking in consistent plot. Still very watchable, but not extremely engaging.

But on an interesting note - Jemaine Clement is a pasty, awkward New Zealander (they didn't decide to mask his accent), and Regina Hall is a fervent, no-BS black woman. The film refreshingly doesn't even draw attention to the interracial aspect. I'm not suggesting that drawing attention to it is always completely a bad thing, but here it appears that the filmmakers are primarily concerned on a general humane level, as well as casting whomever they want without having to poke and prod for comedy, irony, or conflict in regards to their different ethnicities in order to serve the story.

Both better and worse, countless films of this vein have come before this one (I think at least two of them have starred Mark Ruffalo, AT LEAST), but if done well it's usually hard to dislike them, and People Places Things is a pleasant one. It ends up being slightly mild, but that also means it goes down easy.


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