Movie Review - Other People

Nominated for four Spirit Awards, including Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay, Best Male Lead and Best Supporting Female, this movie was critically well-received after it premiered at this year's Sundance. It must be said though that it bears a striking resemblance to a film that premiered at Sundance the year prior. Josh Mond's James White (2015) was about a young guy who lives with his mother, a former teacher, who is now dying of cancer. The movie follows a year in his life, as he deals with her and the frustrations in his life. This film by writer-director Chris Kelly (Onion News Network and Saturday Night Live) is about the same thing. The differences are that instead of New York City exclusively, this movie is set in Sacramento, California, and the young man in question here is gay.

Jesse Plemons is an Emmy-nominated actor who has been recognized for his role in Fargo. Plemons has also had significant parts in Friday Night Lights and Breaking Bad. His performance in all those TV shows has been extraordinary. He's equally as good here as David Mulcahey, a somewhat introverted and awkward writer. Through him, we see the kind of gay man whom we don't often see in TV or films, even in films written and directed by gay men, and that's a gay man whom would never grace the cover of Men's Fitness magazine or would be walking a fashion runway. In other words, he's a bit chubby and he's not the best-looking guy.

Kelly also writes a relationship between David and his father Norman, played by Bradley Whitford (The West Wing and Transparent) that isn't typical of how most relationships between parents and gay children might be portrayed. Norman doesn't disapprove of his son or call him slurs. He simply avoids topics or situations. He'll talk to his son about other things and even in an encouraging way. He'll even touch his son, but despite being close in a way he's still distant in others. It's an interesting dynamic that isn't explored as much as it could have been.

Molly Shannon (Saturday Night Live and Enlightened) co-stars as Joanne, the mother of David who is fully accepting of her son being gay and doesn't have a problem talking about anything. Unfortunately, she loses her voice half-way through or perhaps two-thirds of the way through the year depicted in this film. She like Cynthia Nixon in James White declines in health and does so mainly because she stops undergoing chemotherapy. Basically, we're just watching her sickness gradually destroy her, mostly through vomiting, lots of vomiting.

Many films both narrative and documentary have done this. Many films have charted the spiraling health of a person due to some disease, be it cancer, ALS, AIDS or anything else. Kelly doesn't do much different from those previous films. He does take the opportunity to mine some interesting comedic moments out of it. Even that can only go so far. Some of the comedy comes from David having to talk about his mom's cancer with people who aren't used to or don't know how to talk about it. The rest of the comedy comes from David being an unlikely and awkward gay guy. Even in that, there are many things to which anyone can relate, though it doesn't seem to be enough.

Not Rated but contains nudity, sexuality and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 37 mins.


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