Enjoyable Times In The Ensemble Human Comedy ‘Person To Person’ (Movie Review)

Here’s a breezy little indie movie that gets by on the abilities of its ensemble cast. Person to Person takes place over the course of one day in New York. It finds little, if any, connections between the characters we meet, but is entertaining nonetheless. The film has an unassuming style, some bits of character-based comedy and a level of soul that suggests writer/director Dustin Guy Defa could move on from here to something that stuns audiences in the future. There’s a level of assured filmmaking here, and it all starts with his friend Bene.


Bene Coopersmith plays Bene, a record collector who is the character we first meet in the film. Bene learns of a rare Charlie Parker record and intends to buy it. He spends the rest of the day dealing with the seller as well as determining if he likes the shirt he is wearing. Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson is Claire, a trainee for Phil (Michael Cera), an editor for New York News, who is currently pursuing a story involving a possible murder. This death is connected to Philip Baker Hall’s Jimmy, a clockmaker who had dealings with the victim. Meanwhile, Tavi Gevinson plays Wendy, a high school girl who has become tired of seeing her best friend hang around with her boyfriend.

There are a few other subplots, most of which only enter the film as a conversation between two people, but it is the style of Person to Person that makes it all appropriate. This is a sprawling film, but still intimate in the way we see various relationships play out over the course of one day. Some of it is funny (Phil and Claire have the broadest moments), and other areas of the film play off of drama or even sadness. Though, it all comes back to Bene.

Coopersmith is a fresh face, and while inexperienced as an actor, he has a sort of charisma that sells him as the heart of this film. This becomes especially apparent as you realize why Bene is so determined to get this record or at least justice for it. As mentioned, Coopersmith is a friend of the director and one of the stars of the short film of the same name. There is a clear level of trust, given how much of the movie can bank on his scenes to keep a balance going.

As a whole, Person to Person has shades of Paul Thomas Anderson and Jim Jarmusch, when the two were first starting out. Even at 84 minutes, there’s a shagginess that goes with how breezy it all is. By making the movie more thematically connected than anything else, it is about finding the rhythm to this film and going along with it. That speaks to the PTA side of things, but there’s also a significant presence of poeticism in the writing and the appearances of various artists and theater stars, which makes me think Jarmusch. Not a bad set of filmmakers to have as an influence.

At its best, Person to Person gets plenty out of the random conversations. Sure, there is some fun quirk to be found in how Cera and Jacobson spent the day going after Michaela Watkins in an attempt to learn the truth about a murder. Adding the running gag of Cera being the bassist in a metal band provides some easy laughs as well. However, it’s the little moments like Isiah Whitlock Jr. arriving to talk about his new hair cut with Hall or the various times Bene address his shirt that make this movie work.

Shot entirely in 16mm, Person to Person is the sort of little film that will randomly find a place for people thanks to streaming services. That’s an interesting note if only because of how unstuck in time this movie feels. It’s not a retro film, but it also doesn’t rely on the world of today to tell the story. This is a movie about people and the textured look of the film that goes along with the setting of New York makes it one that moves along quite nicely.

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