Quick Reviews: People Places Things and Trumbo

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This has been sitting in my drafts for a little while, because I had planned to add another film to it. Oops.

Up Today: People Places Things and Trumbo

Quick Take: While each has its moments, neither of these films makes for a particularly worthwhile viewing experience. That said, I’m inclined to think more favorably of People Places Things, simply because it seems to have a much clearer awareness of what it actually does well and manages to accomplish. On the other hand, Trumbo repeatedly fails to live up to its own conception of itself and is far too average to be memorable. 

People Places Things (2015)
Directed by James C. Strouse

People Places Things is one of those small movies that I didn’t know anything about until Netflix recommended it to me.

This indie comedy stars Jemaine  Clement (Flight of the ConchordsWhat We Do in the Shadows), and those who are already fans of his work will probably enjoy the film more than those who are not. The New Zealander does precisely what Strouse’s film asks him too, but he is also its only strong attraction.

The film’s other cast members include Stephanie Allyne, Michael Chernus, Regina Hall, and The Daily Show‘s Jessica Williams. For the most part, each of them does what the script requires, but only Allyne and Hall manage to make any impact. Unfortunately, the supporting players in People Places Things often feel more like tools with which the film simply diverts attention and sympathy back on to its lead than they do like fully formed characters in their own right.

People Places Things offers viewers a light and amusing story about divorce, love, parenting, and adulthood. At its best, Strouse’s latest is an intelligent and sincere film about people who are doing their best to make their way through life. Still, while the film is cute and clever enough to remain mildly entertaining throughout, it also suffers from an uneven script, and it doesn’t do enough with its material to warrant repeated viewing. It’s also a film about the woes of the relatively privileged, and for that reason alone, it may not appeal to certain viewers.

As funny and as genuine as some of its moments are, People Places Things is relatively lightweight, and it is unlikely to make a real impression on those who watch it.

Trumbo (2015)
Directed by Jay Roach

To be perfectly honest, I probably never would have seen Jay Roach’s Dalton Trumbo film if it weren’t for the fact that Bryan Cranston is its star. Unfortunately, his presence (though occasionally quite compelling) is not nearly enough to save what amounts to an incredibly flat and largely uninteresting biodrama.

Roach’s film is well-acted (though not so well-acted to explain Helen Mirren’s recent Golden Globe nomination), and it offers viewers a few genuinely funny and poignant moments alike. However, these moments are weighed down by a clunky script, poor pacing, and a pervasive lack of emotional impact. The film’s lack of inventiveness also leaves the whole endeavor feeling hollow and fruitless.

In leaning too heavily on the presence of it’s actors, Trumbo fails to present a story worthy of its subject matter. Despite its superficial interests in censorship, the blacklist, the film industry, and one of Hollywood’s most famous screenwriters, Trumbo spends a large portion of its time simply going through the motions, and it never delves deeply into any of the issues at hand. Moreover, though its story spans decades, the film seems to remain firmly fixed in place for its entire running time. The characters depicted at the end of Trumbo are also largely the same people they were at the beginning, which adds to the sensation that the film is far too static too amount to much at all.

Until Next Time
Thanks so much for reading! If you have any thoughts you’d like to share on either of these movies, just leave a comment below or connect with this blog on twitter.

I haven’t been able to post as much as I’d like to lately, and I apologize for that. I’m in between jobs at the moment, so movie tickets have become a bit of a luxury. That said, I do know that I will be seeing The Force Awakens later this week. I may also be able to catch The Big Short soon (Tulsa is still waiting for Carol, which sux).

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