At the heart of Those People is a fairly simple love triangle. Our protagonist is in love with his unattainable friend while dating another man who is in love with him. Saying that the set-up is simple is not necessarily a criticism, though. It’s all about what a movie does with that set-up. Fortunately, this film manages to complicate and deepen its central premise.
We first meet our 20-something protagonists as they sit in a Manhattan penthouse having a friendly competition of who can sing along best to “Modern Major General” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzanze. So yeah, not necessarily the most relatable characters for most of us. But that’s okay; just know that we’re going to be dealing with rich-people problems here. (Part of me wonders if the title is meant to anticipate the response to the characters I’m describing.)
In fairness though, one character in particular is dealing with some pretty heavy rich-people problems. Sebastian’s father is a recently jailed Bernie Madoff-style white collar criminal, and the world thinks that Sebastian may have been involved as well. Things get worse for him from there. Sebastian is the unattainable object of desire, both emotionally wounded and emotionally wounding. The actor Jason Ralph very effectively creates a charming character, making it perfectly reasonable that our hero Charlie would spend years pining for him. (Also, Sebastian looks like an even cuter version of Nate Reuss from the band fun., which I didn’t hate.)
Charlie (Jonathon Gordon) is what seems to be more and more a fairly ubiquitous gay-boy archetype. Like the prototype Mikey in Queer as Folk, Charlie sees himself as the dorky wallflower even though he’s extremely cute. He’s more sensitive and, also like Mikey in QaF, he pines after his more confident and conventionally attractive friend. But the archetype works. His adorable earnestness makes you want so badly for him to find happiness. (Mikey was my favorite QaF character. Brian was insufferable; fortunately Sebastian is an improvement on that other archetype.)
The weak link in our central trio is Charlie’s other romantic interest Tim (Haaz Sleiman), in writing, character development, and acting. Tim’s primary purpose for existence seems to be to force Charlie to deal with his feelings for Sebastian.
So yes, a somewhat standard set-up for your typical romantic comedy. But make no mistake, this is a Drama with a capital D, not a frothy rom-com, and (without giving away too much) the filmmakers do manage to take it in a somewhat different direction.
The acting is first rate among both the leads and the supporting players as well (the one weak link being Charlie’s other romantic interest, Tim). The cinematography is pretty to look at. The film-making generally is great. And the story, though fairly standard, manages to stay interesting and compelling.