An absolutely delightful charmer, “People Places Things” bodes a new level of performance for Jemaine Clement. The story of Will Henry, a struggling graphic novelist forced into teaching while he awaits his big publishing break, we meet Will and his family while celebrating his twin daughters’ 5th birthday. It doesn’t take long before the atmosphere becomes anything but happy when longtime girlfriend Charlie is caught cheating on Will with their friend Gary, whom she now wants over Will. Fast forward one year and Will, while alone, has an incredible father-daughter relationship with his girls. Pushed by one of his students to “move on”, she fixes Will up with her mother Diane. As Will tries to navigate the uncharted waters of dating, fatherhood, and fulfilling his own dreams as a graphic novelist, heartfelt humor ensues to delightful result.
Jemaine Clement stars as Will and delivers one of the most thoughtful and engaging performances of his career. Stepping into leading man status, Clement captivates with a delicate balance of humor that comes from the foibles of life. The touches of comedy never feel strained; are always organic in nature. With strongly nuanced comedic chemistry as we watch the relationship dynamic of Will and Diane, Regina Hall proves a delight as Diane, while Stephanie Allyne adds her own comedic notes to Charlie.
Written and directed by James C. Strouse, who previously dealt with the single father-daughter dynamic in a much darker tone with the John Cusack vehicle “Grace Is Gone”, with “People Places Things” sweet whimsy is resplendent throughout the film starting with the opening titles and continuing through thanks to the peppering of charming “comic book” drawings and panels by Gray Williams which serve as Will’s artwork and storytelling tools. Great attention to detail is found within the scenes of Will’s comic book classes with some sage “real life” comics advice on construct and design. Although many of the situations Strouse creates for Will have a single dad sitcom feel to them, they are nevertheless engaging and relatable, i.e., no food in the house when the girls come to visit and the pizza delivery guy becomes your best friend, oversleeping, no concept of getting the girls to school on time, getting your student to babysit in an emergency, birthday gift mishaps, etc. The balance of real emotions and innate humor is refreshing and enjoyable. Shot in and around New York, thanks to lensing by Chris Teague, “People Places Things” has an intimate, yet warm and timeless “Anywhere USA” quality to the visuals.
Icing on the cake is Mark Orton’s score which captures the lighter whimsy of Will and essence of his comic book dreams.
Written and Directed by James C. Strouse
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Stephanie Allyne