As the new year was approaching, I saw numerous ‘Best Movies of 2016’ lists by friends on Facebook. The usual suspects were there: La La Land, Edge of Seventeen, Manchester By the Sea, Twentieth Century Women (well, it was on my list. I don’t think many people have seen it yet.). However, there was one movie that kept getting mentioned which I had never heard of, which of course was very distressing. I pride myself on knowing all good movies. So, I did my research and found that the film was on Netflix. I suggested watching the film to my brother, we watched the trailer, and thought, eh, looks a bit depressing.
I watched the film yesterday on a lark and…was a COMPLETE MESS. Some people out there who know me well are reading this and thinking, Lindsay, you cried at the trailer for This Is Us, how can we trust you? And okay, you’d be right. I am a bit emotional…or a lot, whatever. However, what Other People did to me wasn’t like, a sniffle. This was me on the floor of my room balling uncontrollably. Thank god I was alone – it wasn’t pretty.
If you’re unfamiliar, Other People, written and directed by Chris Kelly, is the semi-autobiographical story of David (Jesse Plemons), a NY-based comedy writer who comes home to Sacramento to take care of his dying mother (Molly Shannon). In addition to his grief, he deals with the uncertainty in his own life: his dating life, his work life, and his own mortality.
I think it’s pretty safe to say the Cancer genre is a bit tired, filled with cliches and manipulative outbursts. However, I think Other People sidesteps those issues for the following reasons:
I was familiar with Jesse Plemons from watching Breaking Bad and of course, Friday Night Lights. I always liked him but this was a very different role for him, one in which he was really allowed to show everything he’s got. When he breaks down in the middle of the grocery store, I was a goddamn mess.
But, really, the real shining star of this film is the wonderful Molly Shannon. I was only familiar with her from early 2000’s SNL and I always thought she was funny. Similarly to Plemons, this was a different kind of role than what Shannon has played before. I was impressed at how understated she was, how quickly she could go from comedy to intense drama. Her standout scene for me was when she visits the school she used to work at.
The supporting cast is made up of some very funny people including Bradley Whitford, (who I discussed in my post on The West Wing), Maude Apatow, Paul Dooley, who I discussed in my post on Breaking Away) and Zach Woods. Sprinkling the cast with such funny people allow a reprieve from the heaviness of the subject matter.
I had never heard of Chris Kelly prior to this. He’s worked as a writer/producer for both Broad City and Saturday Night Live, which is a pretty impressive resume, especially considering he’s only thirty-three years old.
I’ve been lucky in my life in so far as I haven’t dealt with these issues yet (KNOCK ON WOOD). However, there were eerie similarities to my life. I grew up in Sacramento, just as Kelly did and my mom is also an elementary school teacher. I’m now living in Los Angeles trying to pursue tv writing.
I think this film resonated because of all those things, but on a deeper level, the script was ultimately about the human experience. It’s a slice-of-life film. We get the sense that we’re not seeing the most important conversations. Instead, we’re experiencing the realness of the situation, the drama and the comedy, the heartbreak, the whole gamet of emotions.
Additionally, it’s not directed in a melodramatic way. You don’t feel that you’re being manipulated. After all, we will all ultimately deal with this situation. Maybe not in this way, but still, the character’s journey is universal.
The film is personal, powerful and extremely poignant.
Small films are worth recognizing. And while some could argue that this is far from being a small film (just look at the producers and the CAST!), it obviously wasn’t big budget. It was a quiet film, a personal story, and that’s why it hits in such a big way.
As an aspiring writer, I was inspired by the film. As a filmgoer, I was unbelievably moved. You should all check it out on Netflix, one of the most underrated films of 2016.
Other People Gifs property of Park Pictures.