Starring: Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford, Maude Apatow, Madison Beaty, June Squibb, Paul Dooley, Matt Walsh, Kerri Kenney, Zach Woods
Directed By: Chris Kelly
Plot: A young comedy writer (Plemons) moves back home to Sacramento to help take care of his mother (Shannon) who is dying of cancer. He deals with life, the impending loss, and having a father (Whitford) who isn’t too pleased with his being gay. Marketed as a comedy, Other People just tries to put a lighter tone on an otherwise depressing theme.
What Works: An incredibly strong performance from Molly Shannon is the reason to see this. She absolutely deserves to be in the Oscar conversation this year, but I’m afraid this film is too small for her to actually get a nomination she deserves. It’s a career defining moment for the SNL alum as she proves she has the chops to do more than just be silly and make you laugh. She can fill a role with depth and grace as well as any Hollywood leading lady. Jesse Plemons also does some really great work, adding to a growing list of roles for which he seems to be underappreciated. The supporting cast is full of people who usually do silly comedies, but all work well in their quirky supporting roles.
What Doesn’t Work: I enjoyed Other People, I just am not sure this film offered the fresh perspective it claims in all its marketing. I would argue that there’s nothing unique or special about this “take” on cancer. Despite its best attempts, it still has that familiar “been here before” smell. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s hard to write a truly fresh take on cancer, and while I appreciate the attempts this film made, it didn’t do enough to set itself apart. I think the fact that Sissy Spacek was once attached in Shannon’s role goes to show how much this film was intended to always be a drama, with comedic elements. I kinda hate being misled by marketing, and I feel like Other People is guilty of that. It’s a shame, because the film is good on its own, and didn’t need to be marketed as game changing for audiences to enjoy it. I don’t really understand the title, as it doesn’t seem to really apply to anything specifically with the tone or film itself. I also felt that I understood always what was happening with the two main characters, but no idea what was happening around them. Suddenly, there was a wedding in the film, and I was pretty sure that had never been mentioned before. I honestly have no idea what the two daughters do aside from existing. They’re pretty central to the story, and I didn’t understand either as a character.
Final Word: Totally worth watching because of two strong performances, and should be watched to get Shannon’s name in the Oscar game. Somewhat humorous, but mostly sad, Other People works in a way it didn’t seem to intend. Rather than being the cancer comedy it had hoped, it instead is a cancer drama with a hint of gay acceptance.
Final Grade: B+