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


Jared McMillan // Film Critic

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

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.