Critics' Pick

Person to Person (NR)

Drama 84 min. July 28, 2017
By Alan Scherstuhl
The first surprise in Person to Person, a day-in-the-life-of ensemble indie, is that even though it opens with a 40-ish beardo rousing from bed thrilled to spend a weekday chasing down a rare Charlie Parker LP, the movie is not a satire. In fact, that beardo sees himself as something like the Tom Joad of the vinyl world: "I've got love for it," he says. "I find records, I collect them, I sell them to people who have that same love inside." As beatific Benny, Bene Coopersmith invests the lines with a guileless earnestness, and since the film's crate-digging soundtrack is all lost R&B gems, you know that writer-director Dustin Guy Defa (Bad Fever) doesn't think this is a joke. Defa knows it's all a little funny, of course — forced to give chase to a low-level crook, Benny has to take the time to unlock his bicycle from a signpost.

Person to Person is a gently comic slices-of-life drama, the kind where a variety of people's conflicting, occasionally overlapping experiences of the city come together into a messy whole. Benny's shut-in roommate, Ray (George Sample III), flees a man who wants to break his legs, and teen pals Wendy (Tavi Gevinson) and Melanie (Olivia Luccardi) skip school to hang out at Melanie's house — and then face a crisis of friendship. These playfully inconsequential stories are set against a darker thread involving a possible murder — and the cast's biggest names. On her first day as a junior reporter, Abbi Jacobson's hesitant Claire gets paired with Michael Cera's friendless showoff Phil; Defa's film might not be satiric, but every Cera performance is a parody of masculine frailty.
Dustin Guy Defa Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson, Philip Baker Hall, Michaela Watkins, Tavi Gevinson Dustin Guy Defa Sara Murphy, Toby Halbrooks, James Johnston Magnolia Pictures

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