Person to Person Is an Indie Comedy for Music Nerds Like You – Pitchfork

Person to Person is one long string of great scenes, but theres this beautifully horrendous moment that captures the farcical strain of comedy running through the new indie ensemble with a music tinge. It involves Michael Cera and Abbi Jacobson (of Broad City fame) sitting in a car, chanting SUCK! SUCK! SUCK! SUCK! SUCK! along with a fictional metal song called Suck on Greed. I like to bang my head a little in the morning before coming into work, metalhead investigative reporter Phil (Cera) tells trainee Claire (Jacobson), an introvert who prefers Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. Claires face, as shes subjected to Phils morning metal routine, reads fear and crippling anxiety; certainly its not helped by the fact that shes assigned a murder case on her first day. Later, Phil attempts to get Claire out of her shell by inspiration-quoting a line from his own metal band (fear is the rape of the mind); you can tell its completely unhelpful.

This memorable dynamic captures just one part of Person to Person, the second feature from writer and director Dustin Guy Defa. The film loosely weaves its three main stories of random New Yorkers without striving for some forced connection. Its casta mix of indie veterans and newcomerskeeps the acting naturalistic, while the low-key, talky sense of humor (reminiscent of early Woody Allen or Richard Linklater) makes something as dark as a murder case come off as just another quirk of the Big Apple.

Even as Phil and Claire team up to track down their possible suspect, the victims widow (Michaela Watkins), cynicism isnt the occupying force of Person to Person. In fact, its quite the opposite. Person to Person is a warm movie: autumnal colors fill the screen while the textured 16mm film it was shot on gives its New York that nostalgic glow. This comes from the lens of cinematographer Ashley Connor, whose rsum includes Josephine Decker films and a long list of memorable music videos familiar to Pitchfork readers (Jenny Lewis Just One of the Guys, Mitskis Your Best American Girl, and Angel Olsens Shut Up Kiss Me, to name just a few).

When Connors lens isnt fixed upon Phil, Claire, the suspect, and the watchmaker who may hold the clues (Philip Baker Hall), it wanders over to Wendy and Melanie, two high school girls skipping school. Continuing to prove her acting chops, Rookie wunderkind Tavi Gevinson plays a sarcastic teen who spends her screen time grumbling to her best friend (Olivia Luccardi), who in turn invites her boyfriend along so they can make out. Ambushed with a double date, Gevinson is a delight to watch as she navigates that space between angst and curiosity.

But the films most touching vignette is of two roommates, Bene and Ray, the latter (George Sample III) fleeing from a much-deserved beating after uploading naked photos of his ex-girlfriend online. Portraying a music fanatic of the same first name, breakout star Bene Coopersmith is the far more lovable half of the duoif not the best part of Person to Person overall, then at least the films heart. Bene spends his day chasing down a rare Charlie Parker LP (The Bird Blows the Blues) and asking strangers if they think he can pull off his new floral shirt. During his scenes, the films soundtrackfull of obscure R&B and funk jams like Shirley Ann Lees Time, the Volumes Im Gonna Miss You, and Greenflows I Gotchacomes alive. As Bene goes after the record seller who ultimately scams him, the title of Person to Personabout the serendipitous, sometimes inconvenient connections strangers can make in the big cityreally comes into focus.

Despite appearances and interests, Bene isnt some hardened middle-aged man constantly griping about the good old days. In fact, its his unabashed earnestness that ends Person to Person on a touching note. After his record-chasing mishap, Bene delivers a speech far too sincere and real to knock down: Me, Ive got music in my heart. Ive got love for it, I seek it out. I find records, I collect them, I sell them to people who have that same love inside. Its a tender spot, its vulnerable. Its a spot that you think nobody is gonna take advantage of. Then you go around and you let that love be known. You share it, you share it with people and you trust that they wont violate you. Person to Person is the kind of movie that asks its viewers to open up that tender spot inside. Once you do, itll completely charm you.

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Person to Person Is an Indie Comedy for Music Nerds Like You - Pitchfork

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