Director: James C. Strouse
I first came across Jemaine Clement & Co. in Eagle vs Shark, a very strange indie film directed by fellow Kiwi Taika Waititi. Next up was Boy, a film Waititi created almost completely on his own, a surprisingly wonderful & emotional movie. The duo met back up for What We Do in the Shadows, a hilarious mockumentary about vampires shot with Real World style. And now it’s Clement’s turn to do a solo project. James Strouse wrote & directed People Places Things, but Clement takes on the role of both leading man and driving force in this odd romantic comedy. Don’t let those labels put you off though, for while the film might be odd, romantic, and comedic, it is far from typical. In fact, it’s one of the most realistically humorous & heartfelt films I’ve seen in years, and it deserves more attention & respect than its under-the-radar status will bring its way.
On his twin daughters’ 5th birthday, Will finds his partner Charlie cheating on him with an off-Broadway monologuist named Gary. Will & Charlie hadn’t been happy for a long time, as she felt her life heading in a direction she never chose and he failed to become the famous graphic novelist who he had always wanted to be. Now, a year later, Charlie & Gary are getting married, the girls are bouncing back & forth between one home & another, Will is invariably depressed, and he has literally no idea what he wants out of life. Meeting an attractive & intelligent woman named Diane helps Will gain focus, but feelings for Charlie keep getting in the way and messing up what could be the best thing to happen to him in years.
Real humor & real heart; that’s what fuels this film. Clement is a genius when it comes to the delivery & timing of his lines, and Strouse’s script is brilliant in its placement of jokes between layers of horrible life choices. The pair create a film that is not just funny, but cutting, understated, believable, and laugh-out-loud hilarious. But what’s a good line without a little context, and thankfully the depth of the story is there to support the comedy. This is life, this is heartbreak, this is change, this is pain; it might not always be fun to watch but it’s always honest. And really, that makes the jokes even more funny, because we can all understand the need to laugh to keep from crying. If People Places Things is a rom/com, it’s perhaps the best one you’ll ever see, a film that takes true feeling and wraps it up in comedy so that we can swallow it, allowing us to receive something bitter and turn it into hope.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆