This review is being re-posted to coincide with the film’s VOD and theatrical release.
In most comedies involving a break-up between parents, the plot tends to naturally vilify the parent opposite of the lead, portraying them as some type of evil entity whom the lead must conquer and triumph over to win. However, this isn’t often the case in real life situations, and People, Places, Things does a great job of being an inherently funny film without having to trap its characters in outlandish situations to garner laughs from its audience. However, will that be enough to hold over those who have come to expect such cartoon-like comedies?
People, Places, Things
Director: Jim Strouse
Release Date: January 26, 2015 (Sundance), August 14, 2015 (VOD, theaters)
On his twin daughters’ birthday, graphic novelist Will Henry (Jemaine Clement) walks in on his wife, Charlie (Stephanie Allynne), cheating on him with another man, Gary (Michael Chernus). A year later, Will is a divorcee living in a small studio apartment in Queens with weekend visitation rights. His depression, while never taking over or defining his character, begins to show through his art and teaching during his classes at the School of Visual Arts. After discovering Charlie is pregnant and intends to marry Gary, Will requests more time with the girls, and is shortly given such time when Charlie drops them off one night. Struggling to juggle his job and responsibilities with the girls, he requests help from his student, Cat (Jessica Williams) and her mother, Diane (Regina Hall). Before long, Cat and Will hit it off, but the allure of reuniting with Charlie and completing their old family dynamic threatens to derail anything new in Will’s life.
Like I mentioned earlier, most comedies of this ilk like to pit ex-lovers against one another in some type of competition, but People, Places, Things doesn’t go that route. In fact, despite a few disagreements, both Will and Charlie genuinely like each other. Rather than creating a conflict that’s person vs. person, People, Places, Things falls more in line with person vs. self conflict, and it could be argued that the film is just as much a coming-of-age film as it is a dramedy. Writer/director Jim Strouse wrote the script with some of his personal anecdotes in mind, which help explain why the script feels so grounded in reality. Despite a solid script with well-crafted jokes, the film wouldn’t have worked as well had Clement not been cast in the role of Will.
In a way, People, Places, Things is a bit of a vehicle for Clement as he’s able to show off his quick-witted timing and his ability to balance that with drama. Fans of Flight of the Conchords will feel familiar with Clement’s witticisms and side jokes, but can also appreciate Will’s longing to be a good father.
People, Places, Things is a solid dramedy that serves as a highlight role for Clement. Anybody interested in a realistic comedy that doesn’t create villainous caricatures of its characters will be drawn to the film, as well. However, audiences that have grown too familiar with Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell, or Paul Feig films may find People, Places, Things a bit too pedestrian for their tastes.