Netflix Recommendation: ‘People, Places, Things’ Is Indie Filmmaking At Its Finest

 

 
Overview
 

Title: People Places Things
 
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Direction
7.0


 
Acting
8.0


 
Plot
8.0


 
Execution
8.0


 
Total Score
7.8


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Posted July 20, 2016 by

 
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I’m just having a bad life. It will be over soon”  – Will

 

In ‘People, Places, Things’, Jemaine Clement plays Will: a graphic novelist, a teacher, a father of two young girls, and a heartbroken guy whose girlfriend (and mother to his children) ends up leaving him for a mild-mannered playwright. While that premise seems like it would be depressing, Strouse’s writing raises it to another level while the actors deliver strong performances that make you feel comfortable in this world.

While the drama of the film is playing out on the screen, it’s also playing out through the drawings of the Graphic novel that Will is creating as a way to work through his depression. Most artists will tell you that the best way to exercise your demons is to put them into your work and get them out of your head, and the way Strouse chose to portray this in the film adds another strong narration that pushes the pace through the ‘every day happenings’ of its characters in order to tell a more complete story. While giving the impression that he’s working through his problems, Will shows us another side as his main character in the story he’s creating is dealing with having a family but wanting to be alone, thinking he’s working with his girlfriend to create a stronger relationship when in reality they’re building a wall between each other, and the uncertainty that comes with truly moving on. As we’re watching this narration play out through his work, Will and his ex-girlfriend Charlie (Allynne) are doing everything they can to keep it all together for their two daughters. What I loved about this film is they are in no way the perfect parents, but they try their hardest which is just as commendable.

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The Indie film scene allows stories like this to be told. It gives us movies that hit way closer to home than any Hollywood budgeted film can, and it relies on the strength of its performers. Fortunately for us, Clement is an under-appreciated actor. We all know he is hilarious because of his days in Flight of the Conchords, and films like ‘What We Do In the Shadows‘ and ‘Gentlemen Broncos‘, but in this movie he is required to not only make us laugh but make us sympathize with his character while also carrying a majority of the film. He has help on the other side from Stephanie Allynne who has played a lot of supporting roles but finally gets to show off her talent. Her portrayal of Charlie is heartbreaking because you see that she just wants everyone to be happy, including herself, and she’s doing everything she can to make that happen but the reality of the situation keeps getting in the way. Her dramatic approach to the character is the perfect balance to Clement’s dry comedy that makes this couple feel real; feel like us.

Strouse takes a formula we have seen play out many times before, but he breathes new life into it, giving us a movie that is just as unpredictable as our every day lives. It’s refreshing to get storytelling that is this honest, this unconcerned with what the audience may want to have happen, and focused on telling a certain kind of story. The content of the film is not an easy one to deal with (Charlie cheats on Will at their daughters’ fifth birthday party and ultimately leaves him) but it’s an interesting narrative on what it means for people to go for what they really want and how that affects those around them.

Michael Chernus (Orange Is the New Black) plays ‘the other man’ Gary. His role is another that we have seen before, but once again Strouse turns it on its head. What is usually a role reserved for us to hate, Chernus plays him as one of the most likable guys – as likable as you can be when you help break up a family we’re getting to know. He understands that the situation sucks for Will, but that it’s going to happen either way so they might as well all get used to it. He makes no apologies for his part in their breakup and often gives Will the outlet to vent his frustrations in order to help him get through his loss. If your wife or girlfriend cheats on you, you want it to be with Gary because he’ll sympathize with you and not rub it in your face that he has what you want.

While the film juggles family, love, loss, and moving on, it does it in a way that doesn’t feel convoluted. Despite all of the moving parts (raising children in a broken home, meeting your student’s mother and trying to start over, getting used to seeing your ex with another person), ‘People, Places, Things’ keeps its focus, keeps us entertained, and delivers a strong addition to the comedy/drama scene.

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DavidRyanM

 


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