Person to Person (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)
Updated: Mar 18, 2020
Person to Person
PERSON TO PERSON (2017)
Starring Abbi Jacobson, Michael Cera, Tavi Gevinson, Bene Coopersmith, George Sample III, Philip Baker Hall, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Michaela Watkins, Olivia Luccardi, Ben Rosenfield, Buddy Duress, Eleonore Hendricks, Benny Safdie, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Okieriete Onandowan, Brian Tyree Henry, Steve Urbanski, Craig Butta, Dakota O’Hara and David Zellner.
Screenplay by Dustin Guy Defa.
Directed by Dustin Guy Defa.
Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 84 minutes. Not Rated.
Person to Person is an interesting experiment, a look at a day in the life of about a dozen eccentric New York types. Most of the stories intersect peripherally. Most of the people are somewhat neurotic; looking for love, or professional gratification, or friendship, or understanding, or even simply a safe place to be themselves.
It is a normal day for them. Not much happens and at the same time lots of things do. It is a sweet and fond look at some of life’s outcasts.
Even though the plot includes such things as a murder investigation, counterfeiting, revenge porn, speed metal, tabloid journalism and lesbianism, the film never warms beyond a pleasant simmer. If you are looking for something to boil over with big moves and big climaxes, Person to Person is not the place for you. As action-packed as this film gets is a not-so-high-speed chase on bicycles.
However, if you are looking for a character study which is consistently pleasantly amusing – though rarely more than that – you are in the right place. Person to Person is not going to raise the pulse of any viewer, however it is a sweet and amiable diversion.
The movie tries to get inside the heads of a whole group of lovable oddballs, filming them airing their quirks in a bunch of cool Manhattan locations. The film is oddly old-fashioned. Even though it takes place in the current day, no one seems comfortable with cell phones, lots of people wear hip vintage clothing, some of the characters are obsessive vinyl collectors, one of the characters has an extended monologue about Frank Sinatra, and one of the storylines revolves around a wristwatch that is being repaired.
The movie opens with Claire (Abbi Jacobson), a timid former librarian, waking up in bed with her cat. It is her first day of a new job as a reporter and she is not comfortable with her new career choice. Her editor Phil (Michael Cera), a writer with a side-light as a bassist for a speed metal band, thinks she is cute so decides to show her the ropes.
Despite the fact that she does not feel ready for a big story, he assigns her to a high-profile case in which a woman who claims her husband killed himself may have murdered him instead. Phil tries to impress Claire with his music (her musical tastes veer more towards Leonard Cohen or Dylan) and his journalistic skills (which seem to be less than top notch). All the while, she is questioning her career choice.
The investigation also takes us into the watch shop of a venerable but timeworn watch repairman Jimmy (played by the always wonderful hangdog character actor Philip Baker Hall). The wife of the dead man (Michaela Watkins) drops off his broken watch to be fixed, and suddenly the police and reporters are all over, looking for information on the watch. Jimmy’s buddy (Isaiah Whitlock, Jr.) sees the crime as an exciting break in the everyday, but Jimmy doesn’t want to be dragged into any of it.
There is also record-collector Bene (played by non-actor Bene Coopersmith, owner of a Brooklyn record shop), a self-conscious, unassuming and sweet man who is angered when he is sold a counterfeit copy of a rare and valuable jazz album. He spends the rest of the film tracking down the crook who took advantage of him.
Bene’s best friend and roommate is Ray (George Sample III), a guy who found out that his girlfriend cheated on him and in a fit of irrationality had her naked pictures uploaded onto the internet. Even though Ray recognized his mistake and had them taken down, her tough brothers are out looking for him.
Then there is Wendy (Tavi Gevinson), a smart, sensitive, mopy, shy and sexually-confused teen. She has talked her best friend Melanie (Olivia Luccardi) into cutting school with her, but then gets roped in to an uncomfortable double-date situation when Melanie’s boyfriend and a buddy show up.
There were other characters flitting in and out of the film, but mostly they did not make a huge impression.
Person to Person feels like a particularly laid-back mumblecore film, or perhaps even an old forgotten 1970s John Cassavettes or Robert Altman character drama. It is sweetly amiable and pleasant to watch, but when the movie is through you can’t help but notice that not much really happened. However, the company of the characters was in general charming enough to make it worth a gander, anyway.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 4, 2017.
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