A review of the romantic comedy “People Places Things,” starring “Flight of the Conchords’” Jemaine Clement as a heartbroken single father. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Jemaine Clement, the New Zealand-born actor/comedian who crafted a small masterpiece of rumpled, addled deadpan in the HBO series “Flight of the Conchords” (his character was always a step or two behind, but valiantly pretending he wasn’t), tries something new in “People Places Things”: conventional romantic comedy. The result won’t set the world, or even the arthouses, on fire, but it’s a nice performance in a pleasant film — and sometimes, that’s just what you’re looking for.
Clement plays Will, a stubbly graphic novelist and all-around nice guy whose pleasant life in Brooklyn with his longtime girlfriend Charlie (Stephanie Allyne) and their 5-year-old twin daughters (the adorable Aundrea and Gia Gadsby) comes to a sudden halt in the movie’s opening minutes: Charlie, who Will catches in an affair, wants out of the relationship. Flash-forward to a year later, as a depressed Will copes with single parenthood, his lingering feelings for Charlie, and the possibility of finding love again with the mother (Regina Hall) of one of his students (Jessica Williams). As the movie progresses, Will learns, in his low-key way, that life is full of unexpected twists, that love is hard to put away, and that people who share children can never fully leave each other.
You’ve seen movies like this before, possibly quite frequently, and writer/director Jim Strouse doesn’t bring much that’s new to the mix. (Even Will’s drawings seem familiar.) But the kids are sweet, the cast is charming and Clement brings a world-weary gentleness to Will, who has a touching way of ever-so-slightly brightening whenever he looks at his daughters. In a moment of exasperation, he sighs, “Love is complicated, girls”; it’s there that you realize that we’re rooting for Will to figure things out — he’s become, in his quiet way, an unlikely hero.
Movie Review ★★★
‘People Places Things,’ with Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Jessica Williams, Stephanie Allyne, Michael Chernus, Aundrea Gadsby, Gia Gadsby. Written and directed by Jim Strouse. Rated R for language including some sexual references and brief nudity. SIFF Film Center.