Written and directed by Dustin Guy Defa
Starring Abbi Jacobson, Michael Cera, Tavi Gevinson, Philip Baker Hall, Bene Coopersmith, George Sample III and more
Grade: Three stars
I don’t think I understood what “intimate movie” really meant until I saw “Person to Person.”
A quiet but charming ensemble piece by Dustin Guy Defa, the movie follows a group of New Yorkers throughout a single day as they struggle with problems and think about the relationships in their lives. Though this seems like the perfect recipe for deadly dull navel-gazing, Defa keeps everyone’s small stories moving forward enough to prove surprisingly engaging. We have more dramatic value in our lives than we realize, and Defa and his low-key, charming cast highlight that beautifully.
The plot touches on several small adventures, from a teen grappling with a relationship to a man chasing after a record thief. The most dramatic story involves a reporter and his new assistant trying to chase the story of a woman who may have murdered her husband, but the focus is less on the mystery and more on the poor woman who’s increasingly convinced her new job is far too overwhelming.
Though sometimes the dialogue feels pre-planned enough to have wandered in from a Woody Allen movie, the cast is excellent (with Tavi Gevinson, Abbi Jacobsen and Michael Cera as the real standouts). The overall tone is light and gentle, with a generous sprinkling of flat-out comedy and a few more serious, tender moments.
Importantly, all of the storylines are resolved to one extent or another, leaving the audience with a sense of narrative satisfaction even if things aren’t neatly tied up with a bow. I know the purpose of independent films is to break from traditional formulas, but you shouldn’t sacrifice the story in the process. “Person to Person” never does.