Set on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side, the film follows Charlie, a young gay painter torn between an obsession with his wealthy best friend and a promising new romance.
“I think gay friendships are interesting constructs,” Kuhn tells NewNowNext. “They are uniquely sexualized even if you two never want to hook up.”
And yes, he admits the film is somewhat autobiographical.
“Charlie is just me five years ago. It’s a marriage of my own experiences and outside experiences,” he says.
Kuhn explains that, in college, he fell in love with his gay best friend. “I was afraid to tell him for years—afraid of ruining the friendship, afraid of rejection. I was in the midst of that when I was writing the film.”
Around the same time, Kuhn was drawn to headlines about Bernie Madoff, the investment banker who swindled millions from his clients. “I grew up in New York and so I actually knew quite a few people who lost their money.”
He was particularly interested in the story of Bernie’s son, Mark Madoff, who killed himself two years after his father went to prison. “I thought it was such an interesting character study,” he explains. “This guy who is tortured for something that he didn’t do.”
Kuhn merged Mark Madoff and his own unrequited love to create the character of Sebastian, the well-to-do object of Charlie’s affection.
In the film, Sebastian is faced with the fallout of his father’s financial misdeeds and demands more from Charlie, right when Charlie is starting to find a love—and a creative voice—of his own.
Aided by Leonardo D’Antoni’s breathtaking cinematography Kuhn convincingly portrays complex relationships in a fast-paced world of money and influence.
We know the people in this film—maybe with less zeroes in their bank accounts, but we know these boys and the challenges they face.
Those People is our Gossip Girl, only with more substance. A gay Gatsby for the 21st century.
Watch the trailer for These People below.