REVIEW: Other People (2016)

Release Poster - Vertical Entertainment
Release Poster – Vertical Entertainment

The following is a quick review of Other People – written and directed by Chris Kelly.

Other People takes place in Sacramento, California, where David (played by Jesse Plemons), an openly gay writer, has returned to take care of his mother (played by Molly Shannon) who is in the advanced stages of leiomyosarcoma. By going home, David has to deal with his father (played Bradley Whitford), who refuses to accept him because of his sexuality.

Other People is supposedly not just the directorial feature film debut for Chris Kelly, but also a personal, semi-autobiographical project for him. This didn’t shock me all that much, as Kelly works with a good group of very real characters when dealing with David’s immediate family.

The film doesn’t pay a lot of attention to David’s siblings, which there is a reason for, but I thought both of his parents felt very real, as did David. The one moment with his father, which felt very real, is where he wants to ‘debate’ David’s sexuality. That’s a really weird thing to say, but also something that I don’t think would be all that unbelievable for a conservative parent to say to an openly gay son.

Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon are the obvious stars in the film. Plemons is becoming quite the actor, and I think he did a really good job here, for the most part. The first time I saw Molly Shannon in anything was actually in Bill Lawrence’s sitcom Scrubs.

In Scrubs, she appeared on an episode called ‘My Last Chance’ as an EMT who, in front of a doctor, acts as if her son is still alive. She goes from playing this really annoying happy-go-lucky type of character, to suddenly being revealed to have a heartbreaking backstory. I think I remember Shannon selling that character turn very well, and therefore it didn’t surprise that Shannon was able to give a credible dramatic performance here.

What didn’t work as well for me, though, were these characters that felt out of place in a story that was supposed to be more heartfelt and emotional than I think it ultimately is. I think the excellent June Squibb is wasted in Other People, and it feels like J. J. Totah’s character was in a different movie entirely.

With that having been said, I do think this is a solid directorial feature film debut for Chris Kelly, which is emotional towards the end of the film, but underwhelming when dealing with people that aren’t members of David’s immediate family.

7 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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