Review: People Places Things
PLOT: A forty-year-old graphic novelist/teacher (Jemaine Clement) struggles to put his life back together after his long-time girlfriend (Stephanie Allynne) the mother of his twin daughters leaves him for another man.
REVIEW: PEOPLE PLACES THINGS will likely surprise fans of Flight of the Conchords Jemaine Clement. While hes been steadily building up a real cult following, most of the movies hes in tend to be on the zany side such as the recent WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS and the upcoming DON VERDEEN. While still a comedy that plays to undoubtedly plays to Clements quirky strengths, PEOPLE PLACES THINGS also gives him a change to be a little more grounded. Hes far from a caricature here and its intriguing to watch him play things almost straight.
As far as the premise goes, its pretty indie-standard in that a nice guy (in this case Clement) finds his life a shambles after his unappreciated partner walks out on him. Naturally this is a chance for him to grow and take responsibility for his life which of course involves a potential new love interest. What makes PEOPLE PLACES THINGS feel fresh is the casting, which is charmingly eccentric. Clement is an odd but excellent choice for the lead role.
Clements always had a swagger about him that perhaps makes him tough to accept as a regular guy. Yet, Clement manages to convey both his characters loneliness and essential good-natured personality pretty effortlessly without toning himself down too much. With his Kiwi accent in full-force and his quirky flag flying high, Clement brings a sense of impishness to the part that keeps him from ever seeming like a sad sack, although the character's vulnerability also shines through. He also has really good chemistry with the two adorable girls playing his twin six-year-old daughters. He comes across as a caring, fun dad but the performance coupled with James C. Strouses writing and direction keeps things from ever being overly-sentimental or mawkish.
The rest of the cast is similarly good, with The Daily Shows Jessica Williams being especially effective as Clements prized student, who later sets her professor up with her sexy, singly mother (Regina Hall). Williams plays it almost completely straight compared to her Daily Show segments, minus a few funny deadpan bits. Hall is also excellent as her romantically challenged mother, and her eventual romance with Clement is played quite well with the two having a nicely understated sense of chemistry.
One cast-member who deserves special praise is Stephanie Allynne as Clements ex. These are always the toughest roles to play, as the first scene shows her walking out on our likable hero in the midst of her kids birthday party, where shes snuck away for a quickie with her new lover (Michael Chernus). While she definitely comes off as eccentric, Allynnes actually quite likable in the part and its refreshing that Strouse didnt take the opportunity to demonize her.
While lacking the genre hook of WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS or the big belly laughs, PEOPLE PLACES THINGS is nevertheless a very likable indie thats an easy recommend for a VOD or iTunes rental. At eighty-five minutes, it's a quick watch but the film is well-crafted, with intriguing use of artwork suggesting the character's history and inner life, which cuts down on meaningless exposition quite well. PEOPLE PLACES THINGS is certainly minor but it's also very charming, and a nice opportunity for Clement to stretch his talents a bit. Check it out!