People Places Things (2015)
Directed by James Strouse
From “Flight of the Conchords” star Jemaine Clement, “People Places Things” is a sassy and shrewd examination of adult dating in 2015. It’s not the first movie to dive into the topic, and it’s not the best, but the hilarious Clement brings a refreshing New Zealand voice to any comedy he stars in (including his other 2015 side splitter, “What We Do in the Shadows”).
A year after he and his wife Charlie (Stephane Allynne) split up, graphic novelist and college professor Will Henry (Clement) finds himself struggling to accept the fact that he only gets to see his twins Clio and Collette (Aundrea and Gia Gadsby) on the weekends. Even though he lives over an hour from their mother and their school, he wants some weekdays. So as Charlie prepares for her marriage to her new boyfriend Gary (Michael Chernus), Will gets his daughters for the week. But full-time single parenthood isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, especially when Will meets the mother (Regina Hall) of one of his students (Jessica Williams) and starts to get back on the dating scene for the first time since the divorce.
You might only laugh out loud a few times watching “People Places Things,” and that’s okay. It’s a better movie than it is a comedy. It even cuts deep sometimes. At one point, after a painful slap to the face, Will declines ice, saying “No, I’m going to let it sting.” Sometimes that’s exactly what “People Places Things” does. But as a comedy, it never dips into silliness or absurdity or convenient plot devices that make everything fall together—even if it ends somewhat predictably. With a runtime of only 85 minutes, though, “People Places Things” sometimes doesn’t allow for scenes to go long enough to reach their full comedic potential. Sometimes, I’m left wanting more.
Jemaine Clement’s New Zealandish invasion is officially underway, and I’m okay with it. More than okay. The comedian always knows how to handle situations, never cracks under pressure, never laughs at his own jokes. He’s one of the good guys. At times, he can be awkward and line delivery can be clunky. But it almost works better that way. It’s tonally consistent. Jessica Williams is an absolutely perfect fit and I hope to see her in indie comedies forever. She shows that she can take the best parts from her 125 “Daily Show” appearances without relying on the often absurd antics of the news comedy show. She’s a revelation.
“People Places Things” is one of the year’s most realistic and thoughtful comedies. But don’t worry, it’s as entertaining as it is poignant. Better yet, you can find this little gem on Netflix.