The Problem with People
October 28th, 2023
MOVIE: THE PROBLEM WITH PEOPLE
STARRING: PAUL REISER, COLM MEANEY, JANE LEVY, LUCIANNE MCEVOY
DIRECTED BY: CHRIS COTTAM
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Family is everything and it is a lesson you only learn when you are older. In director Chris Cottam’s film, The Problem with People, the story becomes about setting petty problems aside and embracing your family. Only in this instance, the embracing means going from New York all the way to Ireland to meet family you never knew you had. Paul Reiser stars in this gentle and delightful comedy, about cousins reuniting in the homeland, putting past drama aside to reunite, only to discover that they have some of their own squabbles they need to get over. The Problem with People quickly becomes a lovely trip to the Irish countryside, filled with great laughs, some bickering, and a lot of love.
It begins with Fergus Gorman (Des Keogh) sitting in bed and watching the television. The Russians are fighting Ukrainians. The Israelis and Palestinians are at war. Democrats and Republicans are at one another’s throats in America. So much fighting going on. It’s at that moment he realizes that his one dying wish is for his son Ciáran (Colm Meaney) to call the family on his uncle’s side in America, reunite the family, and set old conflicts aside. Keeping that wish, Ciáran calls cousin Barry (Paul Reiser) in New York, out of the blue. As Barry is trying to keep up with the hustle of his real estate firm and his daughter Natalya (Jane Levy) coping as a single mother, he decides, why not? Everything seems copacetic and then as most families go, the drama finds a way to seep into the foundation.
A witty script, Co-written by Reiser and Wally Marzano-Lesnevich, along with strong-rooted direction from Cottam helps, but what makes The Problem with People work so well is the chemistry between its two leads. Reiser and Meaney play like long-lost brothers, both having a perfectly dry sense of humor and unafraid to show their characters’ sensitive states. The early stages of friendship are an embrace of family and what looks like great happiness. Then Fergus passes away and the wrenches thrown into the wheel are just what happens to families. Fiona (Lucianne McEvoy) is the bartender at the local pub, catching the eye of both lonely lads making them extra chippy, followed by money left in the family will, making the two “adults” do some crazy things. I guess being divided is just a part of this family.
Narratively speaking, The Problem with People is a delightful escape. It’s a bit lean, holding back bigger dramatic potential, as I felt like it was missing a fuller third act. That’s not to minimize the things it does right, which make you laugh, escape to the beautiful hills and valleys of Ireland, and celebrate two actors that should be in many more just like it. It reminds me of films such as Waking Ned Devine, Sideways, or the delightful pettiness of Grumpy Old Men. When you are able to get two veterans together and keep it in a range that feels neither mean-spirited nor cheesy, you are doing it right.
It’s ultimately a great display for more movies like this being made. It may not feel like a fully robust production and the humor holds back from being sheer slapstick, but The Problem with People hits all the right buttons. Reiser and Meaney are a spectacular pair. They invite us into the family dynamics and we all will feel right at home. There’s nothing pretty about reuniting with family and The Problem with People understands all of that and more.
THE PROBLEM WITH PEOPLE PLAYS AT THE DOWNTOWN LA FILM FESTIVAL THURSDAY NOVEMBER 2ND AND WILL BE PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AT A LATER DATE.
Written by: Leo Brady