Review: Person to Person (Sundance) starring Michael Cera

Person to Person (Sundance) starring Michael Cera
4 10

PLOT: The lives of a crime reporter (Michael Cera), his intern (Abbi Jacobson), a watch-maker (Philip Baker Hall), a record collector (Bene Coopersmith) and more intersect over the course of a casual New York City day.

REVIEW: There are some movies that, within the first five minutes, you can just sense won’t be for you. It doesn’t mean these are legitimately bad films, but it’s common for a director’s style to just completely rub you the wrong way, and such a thing happened to me within the first few moments of Dustin Guy Defa’s PERSON TO PERSON.

An intentionally retro slice-of-life gussied up with 16mm photography (complete with cigarette burns and print damage) and a seventies vinyl soundtrack, Defa seems to be going for a twee version of John Cassavetes, and the results are never convincing and often pretentious, despite some OK moments.

Feeling more like a bunch of short films spliced together (in fact this is based on a well-received short), some work better than others. The one that anchors them, being Cera’s investigation of a death with Jacobson is the worst of them all - a problem when it’s what pull them all together. Cera - and I’m not one of those people that dislikes him - is terribly obnoxious as a metal-loving reporter. He’s not convincing as they type of guy able to ingratiate himself enough to police that he could get off-the-record tips, not is he aggressive enough. “Broad City’s” Abbi Jacobson is fine, but its a mild mannered part and her and Cera make for an awkward pair.

Of everyone, the biggest impressions are made by Philip Baker Hall, who seems comfortable as the old-timer watch-maker, with Isiah Whitlock adding some charm as his Sinatra-obsessed best pal. Of the main players, the most interesting is Bene Coopersmith, as a record-collector chasing the con-man who ripped him off all over the city. A non-actor who’s apparently a real record-shop owner in Red Hook, there’s an authenticity to his performance, even if the hep cat patter is tough to swallow.

Defa does have a good visual style, and I admire all the exterior shots, something rare for indies. In a way it reminded me a bit of Peter Bogdanovich’s THEY ALL LAUGHED, minus the magic and charm. He has the technique, but the substance is thin - even for a mere eighty-four minute running time. It’s also a shame to see “Atlanta” break-out Brian Tyree Henry wasted in a word-less bit part as a thug - something below his talents all things considered.

In the end, PERSON TO PERSON struck me as obnoxious, but again, it simply rubbed me the wrong way. I’m sure some folks - likely New Yorkers - will find this charming, and more power to them. It’s just not something I think many beyond a very tiny audience will find compelling. It’s a few clever bits stretched very thin, and relatively forgettable.

Source: JoBlo.com



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