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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Movie Review - Other People

Other People (2016)
Starring Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford, Maude Apatow, Madisen Beatty, Paul Dooley, and June Squibb
Directed by Chris Kelly
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Eschewing the melodrama (for the most part) that accompanies films of its ilk, writer-director Chris Kelly has crafted a surprisingly light-hearted, emotionally poignant debut feature in Other People which revolves around a difficult subject -- coping with the impending death of a loved one.  It doesn't surprise me that the film is loosely based on Kelly's life seeing as how the film feels believably lived in, managing to meld comedy with drama effortlessly with neither aspect feeling short-changed.

David (Jesse Plemons) is a gay twenty-nine year-old television comedy writer who has moved back home from New York City to California after his mother Joanne (Molly Shannon) is diagnosed with cancer.  With treatment not helping, Joanne decides to quit chemotherapy and try and live the rest of her life to the fullest with her son, two daughters (Maude Apatow, Madisen Beatty), and husband (Bradley Whitford) making the most of their remaining time together.

From the outset of the film, we know that Joanne has died.  Writer Kelly smartly does this so that we in the audience aren't wondering, "Will she make it?"  Knowing that she doesn't, we become more invested in the characters and their journey instead of trying to guess the ending.  Sure, this creates a sense of melancholy from the get-go, but Kelly smarty counters the depressing mood with the character David's humor which he obviously has learned in large part from his mother.  Cleverly choosing comedienne Molly Shannon to play Joanne, director Kelly has an actress obviously well known for her comedic roles, but Shannon is just as good in the quieter, more dramatic moments when the heaviness of her situation rears its ugly head.  Jesse Plemons is also very good here, mining comedy from its deadpan aspects which proves a nice counter to Shannon's more broad type of humor and the two styles work well with one another and also meld nicely with the film's more dramatic moments.

The film falters a little bit when it delves into David's private life -- moments detailing his relationship with his father who has disapproved of his gay lifestyle for the past decade fall flat and feel a little tacked on to the real crux of the story, however true they may be to Kelly's real life.  Still, the film allows the character of David to interact with a bunch of different characters other than Joanne -- his sisters, his grandparents, his ex-boyfriend -- and this variety of relationships creates an incredibly well-rounded character at the center of this little indie film.  This is a fantastic debut for writer-director Chris Kelly and I look forward to seeing whatever he can craft next in his cinematic career.

The RyMickey Rating:  B+

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