Monday, March 27, 2017

“Person To Person”– Movie Review



On the closing night of the New Directors/New Films series, I saw “Person To Person”, with Michael Cera and Abbi Jacobson.


A day in the life of  some quirky denizens of New York City.


Claire (Jacobson) is a librarian who feels she’s wasting her life there, so she pursues journalism.  Getting an opportunity at The New York News, she is interviewed by Phil (Cera), one of the editors, who decides to give her an assignment as something of an audition:  recently, there was a case where a man turned up dead, but it’s unclear if it was a suicide or if he was murdered by his wife.  Claire’s job is to serve as an investigative reporter, trying to get a scoop by interviewing the wife.  Phil, however, has ulterior motives; besides merely beating his competitors, he also wishes to hook up with Claire. 

Bene (Bene Coopersmith) is devotee of vinyl; when he hears someone is looking to sell a rare Charlie Parker album, he’s excited and willing to spend the money to add this to his already vast record collection.  But is the seller legitimate and is the record authentic?  Meanwhile, Ray (George Sample III), his best friend, is currently crashing at Bene’s apartment after breaking up with his girlfriend.  Angrily, Ray responded with revenge porn:  he posted nude photos of his ex-girlfriend on the Internet.  When Ray learns his ex knows about it, what happens when she sends her brother and his friends after him?

Wendy (Tavi Gavinson) is a teenager confused about her sexual identity; even her best friend thinks Wendy is a lesbian.  Also, Wendy is very critical of her friend’s boyfriend – not to mention generally critical (and cynical) about relationships.  Although Wendy admits to experimenting with girls, she denies ever trying to be with a boy, adding to the speculation about her true sexuality.  The friend arranges for her boyfriend to visit while Wendy is there – and he brings a buddy.  Will Wendy be interested in hooking up with him or will she steadfastly hold to her views?  


“Person To Person” has a few humorous, entertaining scenes, but overall, the movie does not hold up because the individual stories aren’t all that cohesive.  The resolutions to the various tales lack a significant payoff, causing you to wonder what the point was.  The fact that these incidents take place in New York City seems more of a coincidence than anything else; there appears to be little making any of these unique to this city.  How this enhances the film all-around is a bit of a quandary; many situations could occur in any city.  The choice to place them in New York seems fairly arbitrary.

While the movie may have some good performances, many characters come off as unsympathetic.  Not that they’re evil, but you wouldn’t want to go on a cross-country drive with them.  Phil is creepy, Claire is desperate, Ray is vindictive and Wendy is obnoxious.  Also, Bene’s romantic subplot seems completely orthogonal to the main thrust of that vignette.  The most interesting characters are the simplest – Jimmy (Philip Baker Hall) and the friends who hang out at his shop.  It seems a funnier (and more interesting) story would have revolved around Jimmy and his customers.       

Following the screening, there was a brief question and answer session with the movie’s writer/director Dustin Guy Defa and most of the cast.  Defa said that since most of his background is in shorts, he decided to make a feature-length film by putting together several of his older short films where a central theme ran through – namely, the intermingling of various New Yorkers on a day in the city.  He mentioned casting the parts was done through various means – some actors he already knew, some were through a casting director, and others came onto the project via mutual acquaintances.  

Person to Person (2017) on IMDb

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