Writer and director Dustin Guy Defa’s full-length expansion of his 2014 short by the same name, Person to Person, follows an eclectic assortment of New Yorkers over the course of a single day. It’s not an exceptionally unique premise, but it could still be a promising one if done right. Sadly, Defa’s execution never meets its full potential.
The ensemble cast includes a seemingly impeccable pairing which originally drew me to the film – Michael Cera as an over-eager investigative reporter, and Abbi Jacobson as his timid new hire. I envisioned that the awkward comedic stylings of these two actors would result in some high-quality banter and maybe even a touching moment or two. Instead, exchanges between their characters are clumsy and uncomfortable without the necessary charm to salvage them.
Despite the best efforts of its talented cast, many of Person to Person’s issues stem from an aimless script full of empty dialogue and rife with cliches. It doesn’t leave much for the actors to work with, and makes connecting with the characters essentially impossible.
The film does find one redeeming quality in the form of its strong 70s aesthetic. First there’s the thoughtful wardrobe that works as well in 2017, as it would in decades past. Then, a scene in which one character’s journey sends him careening through an impressively stocked record store. Most notably, Person to Person is beautifully shot on grainy 16mm, which does much to lend the film its overall vintage ambiance.
Despite that final positive note, this certainly isn’t the most favourable review I’ve ever written. But Person to Person isn’t a bad movie, so much as it is a forgettable one. That almost seems worse.