PARK CITY. Jim Strouse's "People, Places, Things" plays like an 86 minute pilot for an HBO comedy series and even in this age of "TV and Movies Have Achieved Parity," I doubt that's what anybody wants to hear. But if you know me, you know I mean it largely as a compliment.
And what does that mean?
Well, not too much happens in "People, Places, Things." It's a low-incident narrative that's supposed to be about emotional truth mixed with humor, but a lot of the comedic beats are being played rather broadly. It feels as if the basic plot elements and, particularly, characters are in place at the end of the film for an ongoing storyline that might be amusing. Give me this cast and some of these characters on a weekly basis for 10 or 13 half-hour episodes per season and I could grow to really like them.
And speaking of growth, if you do a few episodes of a TV comedy and you don't quite nail the tone, but you show potential, generous critics such as myself will write, "Well, sometimes it takes comedies a while to find themselves" and then you get the benefit of the doubt. If you do an 86 minute feature comedy that doesn't quite nail the tone, but shows potential, the most generous critics such as myself will write is, "Well, some of it works, but it really could have used a bit more fleshing out so that I was left with more in the end."
Why wouldn't everybody want to just make TV? Show potential. Get the opportunity to develop your characters. Make sure that you aren't just relying on cuteness and comic timing, because those can't always yield depth immediately.
"People, Places, Things" has cuteness and comic timing in abundance, but if we assume that Strouse isn't really going to turn around and sell this to HBO, it doesn't amount to much.
More after the break...