People Places Things is on DVD and digital platforms now via. Madman Films
New York. City of love, loss, and plenty of creative angst. It’s practically a genre by now! It’s covered everywhere from Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America (the fantastic, heartbreaking insightful) to Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip (the unbearable, navel-gazing). Jim Strouse’s sometimes upbeat, sometimes heartbreaking People Places Things luckily operates closer to the former end of the spectrum. Ultimately, it’s a familiar and forgettable route, but a nonetheless smart, funny, and blissfully uncomplicated one. That’s mostly thanks to the central performances from Jermaine Clement and his c0-leads Jessica Williams, Stephanie Allynne, Regina Hall, and Aundrea and Gia Gadsby (recognisable from sharing the role of Jennifer Lawrence’s daughter in Joy). They play the routine influences in the New York City heartbreak-and-eventual-self-discovery genre – admiring student, romantic interest, emotionally unstable ex, and daughters – at times unforgiving roles that err on the side of existing for the purpose of reinvigorating Will, and little else. Clement plays Will, an unsuccessful graphic novel artist and teacher. He has a pathetic attitude recognisable in these films, evident from the opening of the film, where he walks in on his partner (Allynne) with another man (Michael Cherus, recognisable everywhere from Mistress America to Orange is the New Black) at his daughters’s fifth birthday party. Strouse is writing from personal experience here, and slips in a few sly criticisms about over-the-top millennial parenting culture. Clement’s ability for dry humour makes Will less of an endless wallower a la Ben Stiller in Greenberg (a film that just became completely unbearable), instead playing him with a sarcasm that makes him a little more bearable. The film may be on the more forgiving side at times (the plot summary says that Will is “exploring and navigating the rich complexities of new love and letting go of the woman who left him”), but in Clement’s hands, Will is equally to blame.