See ‘People Places Things’ for Jemaine Clement’s honest act

The “Flight of the Conchords” star makes a major acting departure.

Jemaine Clement, the erstwhile Hiphopopotamus of “Flight of the Conchords” fame, makes a major acting departure in “People Places Things,” a low-key dramedy in which he plays a lonely father trying to pick up the pieces after his wife leaves him.

The primary reason to see this movie is to experience Clement playing a real person experiencing a crisis in relatable terms. He’s terrific, dropping the ironic detachment that characterizes his best-known work.

There’s a lot to be said for movies reflecting life without especially embellishing things, and that’s precisely what writer-director James C. Strouse achieves here. It’s sweet, particularly in the dynamic between Clement’s Will and his twin daughters. Clement and his young co-stars achieve a natural connection. And it evokes something honest about the interplay between life and art, as Will’s misadventures and the emotions accompanying them affect his work as a graphic novelist.

Yet the picture is subsumed by an inescapable aura of insubstantiality.

Strouse is so committed to rejecting any of the embellishments that come with your everyday midlife crisis movie, that the picture sails adrift.

Will’s world crumbles, but not dramatically enough given the circumstances (he caught his wife cheating with his friend at their daughters’ birthday party). He moves into a shabby Astoria apartment, stops shaving and mopes around a lot. He’s a good person and a great dad.

Spending time with him and his family is a pleasure, and given the story Strouse wants to tell, that’s less than ideal.

Robert Levin