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Other People - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Other People
Directing: B+
Acting: A-
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

Does the world need another movie about a family dealing with a loved one afflicted with a terminal disease? Even another dreamed about such a thing, for that matter? The decades through the history of film is littered with these things. And who are they for, anyway? People who like movies with both laughter and tears, I guess.

The thing is, the performances in Other People make for a strong case that yes, indeed, the world needs another one of these. The story beats are all too familiar, but the characters are unique, as are the actors. You may remember Jesse Plemons as Landry from Friday Night Lights (and he's popped up in several things since, including a bunch of episodes of both Breaking Bad and Fargo, but you've never quite seen him like this. Here he is the oldest of three, a gay man pushing thirty with a terrible relationship with his father (Bradley Whitford) since he came out ten years ago, but has a much better relationship with his cancer-afflicted mother (a fantastic Molly Shannon). Plemons's portrayal of David is not just subtle and nuanced, but he manages to disappear into the role with virtually no physical transformation.

He and Molly Shannon are the reasons to watch this movie. Sure, it has its tear jerking moments, and it has some genuinely funny moments too. Some of it is almost pointedly awkward, as when David's friend's flamboyant little brother performs a weirdly suggestive drag dance for his father's 60th birthday. I'm not even sure why that scene needed to be in the movie, but they sell it, and it's amusing.

The movie opens with the scene of the mother's death, Joanne surrounded by her family, weeping. That's literally the first thing you hear, before the fade-in and the screen is still black: sobbing. I guess writer-erector Chris Kelly wanted to make it immediately clear what we were in for. The scene ends with a turn that's difficult to gauge, whether it's supposed to be humorous or not. It's just odd. That's the way life is sometimes, I guess.

As both a writer and a director, this is Kelly's first feature film. By that measure, as a debut film, Other People is damned impressive. It's just hard to gauge who this movie is for, really. It doesn't even have as many tears as you might expect. I didn't cry until the end, and even then not a huge amount. There's something refreshing about that, though; it's sort of a non-tear jerker that still gets tears. Kelly gets performances out of this cast that gets to the heart of emotion without allowing the film to be emotionally manipulative.

There's a point where David is talking to a friend, and he says, "I always thought this happened to other people." His friend points out that he is the "other people." But there's a clear naiveté here, something reflective of David's youth. The truth is, when it comes to being touched in some way by something this difficult, with a family member or a close friend, "other people" are really most people. Other People doesn't really dwell on this point, but it does seem vaguely aware of the irony.

Other People has plenty of laughs, but it's not particularly fun. How could the story of a woman dying of cancer be? It feels real, though. It has a familiar story arc, which is transcended by the entire cast, but particularly Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon. In spite of the tragedy, it offers the kind of closure you want in the end. There's a unique emotional tone here that's worth experiencing.

Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon are the OTHER PEOPLE that this shit happens to.

Overall: B+
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