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Person to Person

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Person to Person Movie Poster Image
Indie drama about New Yorkers has some mature moments.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 84 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Everyone needs friends who love them unconditionally; cities are full of people with fascinating, complicated lives; putting something on the internet has consequences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bene is a wonderful friend, and he genuinely loves Ray. Despite his huge mistake, Ray comes to terms with its consequences and even has a cathartic conversation with his ex-girlfriend. Claire is patient and discovers that being a reporter is harder than you could imagine. Wendy wants to encourage her friend, but she also isn't going to lie about what she thinks about her friend's boyfriend.

Violence

Ray is threatened a couple of times and believes he's going to get beaten up by his ex's brother. Bene chases a thief on his bike; when the guy crashes, he takes his money. Two characters witness an unseen death/injury on the sidewalk.

Sex

Several discussions and references to how Ray purposely put risque photos of his girlfriend on the internet. One blurry screenshot of a computer screen shows vague flashes of skin but no actual nudity. But the pornographic site's name is visible: "All That J-zz." A quick embrace and kiss between two characters. Teens make out on the couch while another couple is upstairs having sex (off camera and implied). Two teens discuss how often their coupled-off friends hook up, and one character describes having previously heard their moaning behind closed doors at a party. An elderly man tells a story about having sex with a woman who once had sex with Frank Sinatra.

Language

A couple uses of "bitch," "d--k," "d--k pic," "t-t," "vaginas," "dammit," "dummy," "rat," "thief," "perverts."

Consumerism

Toyota, Chevy, iPhone seen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink beer; adults drink red wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Person to Person is an indie ensemble drama about a day in the life of various New Yorkers. A subplot involves teens who skip school, drink, and hook up at someone's empty house. Language isn't frequent but includes "bitch," "d--k," "damn," and more. Expect plenty of references to sex, pornography, and uploading nude pictures to the internet. Violence is limited to a couple of threats, an off-screen murder, and a guy who crashes his bike and falls off. Although one of the stars is Rookie founder Tavi Gevinson, this movie is more likely to appeal to adult fans of indie films than to teens. But for teens who do watch it, the movie could spark conversations about social media, relationships, and New York City. 

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What's the story?

Debut feature director Dustin Guy Defa's PERSON TO PERSON introduces viewers to a motley crew of loosely interconnected characters in New York City. There's Bene (Bene Coopersmith), a vintage record collector who's interested in purchasing a rare Charlie Parker album. Meanwhile, his heartbroken best friend, Ray (George Sample III), is crashing on Bene's couch because one huge mistake ruined his relationship with the love of his life. And 20-something Claire (Abbi Jacobson) starts her new job as a crime reporter for a local newspaper and must join her nerdy editor, Phil (Michael Cera), on the case of a suspicious suicide that could have been murder. One of the potential sources for the story is Jimmy (Philip Baker Hall), an elderly watch repairman whose friends hang out at his shop. Lastly, there's intelligent teen Wendy (Tavi Gevinson), whose best friend, Melanie (Olivia Luccardi), tricks her into hanging out with her uninteresting boyfriend and his best friend. Each story progresses until nighttime, showing a full day in different New Yorkers' lives.

Is it any good?

While occasionally charming, this ensemble indie about strangers and friends in New York City focuses so much more on characterization than a cohesive plot that it's only partially compelling. Not all of the subplots are equal; the relationship between Jacobson's new reporter and Cera's editor is the least interesting (not to mention that there's no way a former library worker could land a job as a beat reporter in the media industry's most competitive city). But Cera and Jacobson might want to consider working together again in a straight-up comedy, as both are gifted comedians. On the other side, the subplot with the least screen time has hilarious moments: Baker Hall's watch repair shop features his good friend, Buster (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), whose storytelling skills are without equal. His tale of making love to a woman who had "made it" with Frank Sinatra is a real scene stealer.

Gevinson, looking and sounding like a mash-up of a young Michelle Williams and Scarlett Johansson, is well cast as a smart, judgmental bisexual teen who can't stand her best friend's dimwitted boyfriend. But the movie really belongs to feature newcomer Coopersmith, who also starred in the short film on which Person to Person is based. He's refreshingly real and compelling as an upbeat middle-aged hipster who doesn't seem to do anything but look for vinyl gems for his record collection. Sample is also a standout as Bene's melancholic best friend who regrets what he did to the woman he loves. It's just a shame that the various parts of this movie don't add up to something more interesting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether there are any role models in Person to Person. If so, who are they, and what are their character strengths?

  • What lessons does Ray's subplot teach about the internet, social media, and the importance of being careful about what you post? How can parents help kids avoid digital drama?

  • How does the city of New York play an important role in the story? What would you say the movie is more interested in exploring: plot or characterization?

  • How does the movie illustrate the significance of consequences?

Movie details

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