Though the moniker doesn’t really elevate my perceptions of this past standard indie New York romance, the presence of Jemaine Clement and Stephanie Allynne peaks my interest. Slightly.
People Places Things, James C. Strouse’s new film, is, well, a pretty low-key affair. Which, I suppose, isn’t exactly a bad thing when you’re telling the story of two parents (Jemaine Clement and Stephanie Allynne) and the mild aftermath of their split-up. You know, life happens, usually without dramatic fireworks or clearly marked transitions, and, knowingly or not, Strouse manages to impress that slow transitional feeling on his film. Clement’s Will Henry is a struggling comic book artist and his former lover/”baby’s mama” is an independently wealthy stay-at-home mom who kicks Will to the door when she realizes her life isn’t what she thought of it. A year later, where the film picks up, Will is trying to figure out how to be a single dad, a responsible human being, and a comic book creator. And that’s about it. Sprouse, again purposefully or not, seems to be reflecting the general mundanity of human life and love – we meet, we like each other, we possibly procreate, feelings change, we split up, stop, start, repeat. And sure, this sort of reflection is a truer reflection, but does it make for a good film? Kind of. Though it is nice to see a romantic comedy not push into the “meet cute” tropes, and instead focus on a transitional period (post-love to pre-love), the film doesn’t have much an engine. Will sort of stumbles around in his life, a sort of hipster Mrs. Doubtfire (without the old lady makeup) half-assedly fucking things up while equally half-assedly being schooled by a little thing called life. Without the benefit of standard, well, narrative points (and they are there, just buried beneath modest filmmaking), Sprouse’s film lulls, pretty much constantly, and when the lulling has become too much, he sort of awkwardly stuffs in a bit of plot to shamble the story along. It makes for an undefined feeling piece of cinema, never really touching down on what it wants to be – comedy, drama, family film – instead, just sort of floating above the concept of definition. Jemaine Clement continues to impress as a Will Henry, bringing a sort of sharp-edged stoner-like delivery to every scene. Clearly, he’s a talent, but films like this always make me pine for a Hollywood where a textured human being like Clement could be a leading man. He leads a solid team of actors though, and even if Sprouse struggles to find his film’s place, it never veers from the path of fairly enjoyable. We live in a world where Indie Films aren’t based on budgetary concerns, they’re an aesthetic we strive to fill. And as much as this film falls into that category, it never finds its place within it.
Jemaine Clement, all day every day. Ooh baby.