Movie Review: ‘PERSON TO PERSON’ – a NYC love letter with damaged contents

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

PERSON TO PERSON
Rated, 84 minutes.
Director: Dustin Guy Defa
Cast: Michael CeraAbbi JacobsonPhilip Baker HallTavi GevinsonMichaela WatkinsOlivia LuccardiIsiah Whitlock Jr.Okieriete OnaodowanMarsha Stephanie Blake and Ben Rosenfield

One of the best reasons to watch movies about New York is that it provides different perspectives to highlight the cultural intersections of the city. For those that live outside of the city, it brings a sense of romance when we see brownstone apartments and autumn leaves, or hear the unabashed banter that passes through the air of the Big Apple. Of course, Woody Allen made his name writing love letters to NYC. Watching PERSON TO PERSON, one can’t help but draw comparison to the neurotic auteur.

Taking place over the course of a day, the movie follows several characters as they go about their lives in some type of relationship. Journalist Phil (Michael Cera) is mentoring new employee Claire (Abbi Jacobson) as they run down a homicide story; Jimmy (Philip Baker Hall) runs a watch/clock shop, while other old-timers (nailed that pun) hang around the shop; Bene (Bene Coopersmith) is a vinyl collector searching for a rare Charlie Parker album, and takes care of his friend Ray (George Sample III), who is hiding out after victimizing his ex with revenge porn; and Wendy (Tavi Gevinson) contemplates the fluidity and maturity of relationships.

While it sounds like a lot of cooks in the kitchen, it never really feels forced. Writer/director/editor Dustin Guy Defa keeps the film’s pace steady enough that it never gets boring. The lens into their world has a graininess to it that evokes a warm nostalgia. However, the audience doesn’t really get enough time with these characters to have a definitive opinion; when their arcs close by the film’s end, you just don’t know how to feel about them, and if you could connect. Bene is the most straightforward character, and because he is abrupt, he is the person you latch onto after the credits roll (his bike chase and following monologue are the best part of the movie).

PERSON TO PERSON has a lot of personality, but doesn’t make a lasting enough impression.

Grade: C+

PERSON TO PERSON opens on Friday (7/28) in limited release.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.