People Places Things James C. Strouse
Published Dec 10, 2015All relationships are flawed; families are fucked up and few people get the life that they deserve. That seems to be the overarching message found in today's average, Sundance-selected indie dramas.
Writer/director James C. Strouse's latest picture, People Places Things, manages to convey all three ideas within moments of the audience meeting the film's lead protagonist Will Henry (played by Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement), a New York City graphic novelist and teacher at the School of Visual Arts (a real-life institution where the director happens to teach, and which no doubt helped inspire much of the movie's many candid classroom interactions) whose life is thrown for a loop when he discovers that his partner, Charlie (Stephanie Allynne), is sleeping with a schlubby off-Broadway monologist (Orange is the New Black's Michael Chernus) while the couple are hosting a birthday party for their twin girls.
Fast forward one year later and Will is living alone in a less-than-ideal studio apartment in Astoria, seeing his daughters every other weekend while trying to cope with his ex-wife's blossoming romance with the man she left him for and trying to move on himself. So when one of his students decides to set Will up with her mother, a similarly divorced professor named Diane (played by Regina Hall), with nothing left to lose, he takes her up on the offer.
People Places Things may sound like a movie strictly about romantic relationships, but its focus lies more on the utter state of loneliness and constant unease characteristic of modern life, whether you're a semi-accomplished artist following your dreams in the off-hours (like Will), a businessperson taking improv classes to let loose (Charlie), or an American literature professor at an esteemed school like Columbia University (Diane). None of the adults in the film seem sure of anything, and sometimes it seems like the kids — whether it's Will's smart but uninspired students or his six-year-old daughters — seem to be more emotionally stable and have better established senses of self.
People Places Things offers an honest, at times cynical, but entirely spot-on look at life, relationships and their many disappointments, and while it may not offer much in the way of resolution compared to other semi-dramatic romantic comedies, it's the kind of low-budget indie flick that makes you reassess life and feel a little better about the results.
(Search Engine Films)