It’s rather hard to be cavalier about someone else’s problems when they take them so seriously and so personally.
Oh wait, no it isn’t. Especially when they’re the types of problems found in Person to Person, which might as well come with a checklist so viewers can mark off every bad indie trope it contains. The film bills itself as a more eloquent mumblecore offering about a series of inconsequential stories about an ensemble cast of New Yorkers (of course that’s where it takes place) while betting that we’ll care about them by the end. In the end, do we? Maybe, but just not in the way Person to Person wants us to.
Most of the stories are unrelated or loosely tied together at best, but the common theme is our search for love and connection. It’s certainly a timely topic, given our current state, one wherein people are connecting more online than in person.
Writer-director Dustin Guy Defa obviously thinks his movie is about his characters trying to forge new connections with various degrees of success, but Person to Person is really about how difficult it is for well-meaning men to get women to love them. With such values, it’s small wonder that he seems just as confused as much of the female cast (which wastes the likes of Abbi Jacobson and Michaela Watkins) about how they should come off. At least they’re not the only ones who deserve better, even if they’re the worst off. But each story involving a woman either revolves around them needing a man to find their place in life or acting as a catalyst so the guy can move on with his. It’s also no accident that the most sexual character is not only the most objectified-which feels not only insulting and shameless, but bafflingly out of place-is also the one who gets stabbed to death. Or at least…I’m pretty sure she does? Defa mentions a stabbing, and even shows us some blood, but doesn’t even have the balls to tell us anything else.
Some stories are genuinely charming, like a music lover chasing down the man who sells him a fake record. But some of these little stories don’t feel so inconsequential, such as the guy who at least feels guilty for uploading naked pictures of his ex. His comeuppance, which involves him posing naked with a stuffed animal to protect the sensibilities of men everywhere, is presented without a trace of irony that his photos are funny, while hers are humiliating, not because her privacy was violated, but rather due to the fact that it leaves her open to the lust of Internet creeps.
Person to Person also has an annoying sense of of self-righteousness about just what kind of person deserves love in their lives. And it has the kind of delivery that’s supposed to be a more eloquent version of everyday speech, but in actuality just brings to mind a hipster douche banging the script out on his typewriter. The fact that he can’t make a day in the life stretch longer than 84 minutes suggests even Defa isn’t entirely interested in bringing out the best in this movie, in spite of all its minimalist touches that are sure to charm fans of the lo-fi aesthetics. If only he’d put as much effort into the screenplay.
This is a reprint from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. To read more coverage, go here.