Despite some first-time feature issues, Joey Kuhn’s Those People gives enough material to its talented lead Jonathan Gordan to introduce him as an exciting new talent.
When Those People is good, it soars. It lives in those moments of humanity — a kiss on the street, a mother/son heart to heart — and revels in the relationship between its characters. Though it flirts with melodrama, Joey Kuhn’s debut feature tries to ground its character even if they live in the sky of Manhattan known as the Upper East Side.
Toeing the line between the melodrama of Gossip Girl and the LGBT coming-of-age stories that have become a genre in itself, Those People follows Charlie (Jonathan Gordon), a 23-year-old painter who is the heart of his group of attractive friends living in New York. And while he’s the one that glues the group together, Sebastian (Jason Ralph) is the one gravitational pull. As the son of a Bernie Madoff type, he is dealing with a crisis of identity that drives much of the forward plot. Because of this, he unwittingly craves the attention of his friends with cries for help — excessive drinking, veiled suicidal thoughts. In particular, he needs support from Charlie, who has had a crush on him since they were younger.
However, when Charlie begins dating older concert pianist (Haaz Sleiman), the group of friends begin to be tested as Sebastian moves closer to the brink and Charlie struggles with his own feelings for the two men. In a way, it feels like a Gatsby for the modern age. Unfortunately, it never quite reaches those heights. I was pleasantly surprised that the movie was able to move past its premise — which is unjustly boiled down to a love triangle — and into something more profound. Still, it never takes enough diversions from the predictable direction.
What it does have, though, is heart and charm. In those moments, the movie soars — an early scene when the group of friends comes together to celebrate Charlie’s birthday is a prime example. That’s partially thanks to the cast — supporting players Britt Lower, Meghann Fahy, and Chris Conroy do great work. But the only way Those People works is with Jonathan Gordon in the central role. He sells the character’s struggles not only in words but with mannerisms. He turns a character who did not have much depth written into the script into a fully fledged and realized person.
Those People never quite becomes the movie that I wanted it to become after I realized that it wasn’t just about a love triangle. In the final moments, we find the group of friends at the center of the film standing together in the apartment that we were first introduced to them. It felt like the series finale of a TV show. However, it doesn’t feel like Kuhn earned that final scene or the climax for that matter. Sebastian says at one point, “you don’t just face our good sides. You stare right at our one eye and you find the beauty in it anyway.” That’s the movie I wanted. One about friendship and relationships and the confusion of love. We get that most of the time, but at others, it loses its way distracted by extraneous plot lines. However, what is on the screen is good enough to introduce us to an exciting new talent in Jonothan Gordan.
Those People is available for streaming on Netflix or Digital HD on Amazon!