People Places Things ***

Pleasant Peachy Thoughtful.

Is it worth $10? Yes

“People Places Things” may have a maddening lack of punctuation in its title, but the movie itself is anything but maddening. It’s a sweet, if a little slight, confection of a movie that is a nice antidote to all the summer blockbusters of the last few months.

Jemaine Clement (from “Flight of the Conchords” fame) stars as Will Henry, a graphic novelist/teacher living in New York with Charlie (Stephanie Allynne), his girlfriend and mother of their twin daughters, Clio and Collette. Will’s life is turned upside down when he finds Charlie having an affair during their twins’ fifth birthday party. Cutting to a year after the breakup, the movie charts Will’s efforts to get over his heartbreak and move on with his life, all while trying to be a good father to his two daughters.

The movie isn’t about big emotions and high drama, which is why it may come off as a little slight. But slight isn’t an insult. A movie doesn’t have to be grand and over the top to be good. “People” takes a smaller, more nuanced approach on purpose, and within that framework, it manages to be quite funny and even insightful.

Most of the comedy (well, all, really) comes from Clement, and the movie is a perfect vehicle for his brand of humor. His dialogue is filled with numerous bon mots and many scenes feature his perfect deadpan delivery and reactions. But his performance isn’t just that of a one-man joke machine. He actually plays a character, a flawed human being who realizes he has made mistakes and is trying to be a better person, especially when it come to his ex and his daughters. Indeed, some of the movie’s best sequences are just about his loving interactions with his daughters.

As likeable as the character of Will is, the same, sadly, cannot be said of Charlie. While a real attempt is made by director/writer James C. Strouse to flesh her character out and make her more than just a selfish ex, not much of it sticks. True, a climactic scene between Will and Charlie features a nice moment in which she reveals how she put her life on hold and suppressed her needs and wants all so that she could support Will and his endeavor to create a graphic novel, only to watch Will sink into self doubt, not finish his project, and pull away from her emotionally. But as understandable as her frustrations are, they simply don’t excuse her actions throughout the picture. Often, she’s just erratic, selfish, and seemingly unconcerned about how her actions affect Will or their children. It’s a shame that the care that was taken to write Will wasn’t also afforded to Charlie.

But Charlie doesn’t derail the film, especially as there’s so much else to enjoy in the movie. The film’s setting, New York in the summer time, possibly an Indian summer, lends a serene, relaxed, sympathetic vibe to the proceedings. Then there are the scenes where Will interacts with his students. They are often funny and give insight into the art of graphic novels. And lastly there’s Diane (Regina Hall), another gem up the film’s sleeve. She’s the mother of a talented student from Will’s class and also a possible love interest. Their scenes have a nice spark, especially an early dinner conversation that turns into a sort of war of words over the validity of graphic novels as literature.

“People Places Things” may not be an amazing movie and it probably won’t be noticed come awards season, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth seeking out. It’s a pleasant film with a healthy dose of wit and charm that you can sit down to and relax with for a breezy hour and a half. In my book that makes it a big success.

Find tickets and showtimes on Fandango.

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