Movie Review: ‘People Places Things’

Review by Tom Swift


An amiable cartoonist survives his wife’s affair and starts dating again with the help of his young kids.

This pleasant, little film takes place within New York City’s artistic class and spends too much time proving how noble all of its characters are. The hero, Will, scrapes by as a cartoonist who lives off his wife’s money and on the few bucks he must get as an adjunct professor of comic books.

Life apparently has been good to Will, and, while a bit sarcastic, his good humor attests to a safe, secure life lived without a whole lot of effort. His general scruffiness tells us he’s safe and secure and lazy.

When Will finds his wife having sex upstairs with another man during Will’s daughters’ fifth birthday party, he summons up a restrained bit of consternation. The film meanders through the following year, ending with the marriage of his ex-wife to the guy Will caught her with.

Along the way Will juggles shared custody of his spunky girls, and a nicely drawn brief affair with the mother of one of his students. This brief romance just drops into his lap – despite the comic potential in a nice guy trying to get his romantic life going once again.

This “good guy” film is a film good guys probably won’t see because there are no car crashes or any off color humor. Jemaine Clement plays Will with the same single minded composure that he exhibited in HBO’s Flight of the Conchords. There he had the wacky music world of New York to react against. Here his wife is sad but sane. Her sane boyfriend becomes her husband in the course of the movie. She has her doubts about the new guy, and the ever wonderful Will helps her deal with it. What a guy.

The film lights up, however, when Will’s new girlfriend appears. Regina Hall has a presence and a bright light within that gives life to her scenes. Will acts like he’s always the smartest guy in the room, and with Regina Hall’s character, Will’s met his match. You hope that Will will get back with her.

Millions of American guys have gone through divorces with more vigor and self-revelation than this film provides Will. Whether they will relate to his middle age, male fantasy is open to doubt – for while amiable movies are in short supply, perhaps that’s because they seem so irrelevant.

People Places Things opens with charming opening credits in cartoon mode. Will is supposedly a talented artist. There were flights of imagination available here. No bothered to use them to bring Will’s interior life alive. A middle aged man going through a divorce deserves more respect than that.

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