Guy Defa’s Person To Person is a charming comedy which follows a variety of New York characters with seemingly no connection to one another. The film is in the long tradition of comedies dealing with the mundane lives of the little people who make New York into the city it is. Staring indie powerhouses such as Michael Cera (Juno, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World), Michaela Watkins (Enough Said, Wonderlust) and Abbi Jacobson (Portlandia, Bad Neighbours 2), this likeable but deeply flawed comedy delivers some memorable laugh-out-loud moments, ultimately let down by trying way too hard to be quirky for the sake of being quirky.
Michael Cera is Phil, a terminally boring and eternally single local newspaper reporter who has yet again roped in an unsuspecting victim, Claire (Jacobson), into being his new trainee and reluctant romantic interest. The two embark on a cat and mouse game in search of a rich widow, played by Michaela Watkins, who is the prime suspect in the murder of her own husband. Meanwhile, vinyl collector Bene ( Bene Coopersmith) receives a call informing him of the whereabouts of a rare pressing of a Charlie Parker LP being sold by a young man who seemingly has no idea of the value of said vinyl. In between consoling his best friend Ray (George Sample III) over his recent break-up, and worrying about a newly acquired garish shirt which he feels doesn’t quite represent who he is, Bene has made it his mission to buy the rare album at any cost.
With far too many narrative strands to keep up with, including that of sexually ambiguous teenager Wendy (Tavi Gevinson) which doesn’t seem to go anywhere, the film does its best to keep the laughs coming, but fails to completely convince. Jacobson is brilliant as the “deer in the headlights” would-be reporter Claire, as is Michael Cera whose comic-timing is always on point. However, it is Coopersmith who is a real revelation here, delivering the most memorable lines and gags. His demeanour as the harsh but fair Bene is reminiscent of any Woody Allen character worth its salt and that is never a bad thing.
Defa, who writes as well directs, delivers a respectable ensemble cast movie with intricate story-lines and likeable characters; however it would have been more beneficial for the narrative had the stories been more neatly tied together. Having said that, the performances are, despite everything else, faultless. With deadpan deliveries, especially from George Sample III as Ray, Person To Person does a great job in keeping its audience entertained for at least 90 minutes – just don’t expect a lot more from it.