When Annie Hall was released in 1977, it was a gamechanger in depicting complicated adult relationships. It was smart, witty, and intelligently modern. Thiry-eight years later, director Jim Strouse's charming and brilliant People Places Things takes it a step further while giving a fresh and funny look at flawed people just trying to find love in their own ways, no matter how awkward their journeys become.
Jemaine Clement (We Live in the Shadows) gives a marvelous performance as Will, a New York graphic artist and intellect, who finds his world turned upside down after he finds the mother of his twin daughters with another man. Strugging to keep his life on track (juggling dual careers and fatherhood), he faces the almost surreal madness of midlife dating while trying to keep his sanity intact. Fate gives him a pass after one of his students at the School of Visual Arts sets him up on a date with her beautiful and no-nonsense mother Diane (a relevatory Regina Hall), who is a teacher at Columbia University dealing with her own neruoses of dating and raising a razor-smart 19-year-old daughter. At first, things get off to a rocky start during an awkward dinner, but after awhile Will and Diane find that they have a lot in common and enjoy each other's company. Unfortunately for Will, life's complexities come back to haunt him after a passionate kiss with his ex leads him to some very serious decisions and what he really wants out of life. In this case, he realizes that he has the ability to come up with his own happy ending.
Although this type of story has been told many times to various degrees of success, it has never been fully realized in such a bold way that takes place in real time dealing with real people with real issues. It has a straightforward narrative of adults looking for their own light at the end of the tunnel. What makes this such a worthy film of discovery is not just the witty dialogue, but also its actors who give amazing and broad characterizations. Clement's portrayal is a masterstroke of deadpan reality in which you feel that this is a guy we all know and find in ourselves; he is an actor of immense importance and he deserves more leading roles. Hall equally matches him gesture after gesture, word for word with her role as a woman who is tough on the outside, but just as immensely vulnerable on the inside. She was particularly good to the point where you almost forget that she co-starred in the Scary Movie series. The supporting cast deserves special mention as well, such as Stephanie Allynne as Charlie, Will's ex; Jessica Williams as Diane's know-it-all daughter; and a hilarious Michael Chernus as Gary - the other man who turns out to be not such a bad guy after all.
There aren't any real special features; just previews of other movies a part of Alchemy Entertainment: Unexpected, Welcome To Me, and Meet The Patels. It would have nice to have a commentary, deleted scenes, interviews, and other features that delve into the film's upbringing and production, but we can't have everything I guess.
To wrap it up, I really enjoyed this film, and it meant a lot to me, not just as an intellectual, but also as a flawed and complex human being wanting to find love, sometimes in the most unlikely of places. Films like this deserve to be watched and talked about for years to come.
People, Places, Things will be released on October 6, 2015.