Why ‘Other People’ is more than just another Cancer drama

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.

crying.gif
LITERALLY SOBBING

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:

The Cast

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.

jesse grocery store.gif
I think we’ve all had a meltdown in a grocery store, right?

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.

car molly shannon.gif
Molly Shannon deserves an Oscar nod for real.

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.

The Script/Direction

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.

molly and jesse at party.gif
So sweet! 

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.

molly laughing.gif
All about the small moments.

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.

Trailer Below:

Other People Gifs property of Park Pictures.

‘The Edge of Seventeen’ captures the teenage female psyche perfectly

It’s been a shitty year for movies. It’s become kind of a slog to go to the movies. Most times I come out and think, That wasn’t really worth it. I almost exclusively write about classic films on this blog, but I needed to make an exception after seeing Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen.

The Edge of Seventeen reminded me of so many things I love, but what astounded me most about it was how completely it got into a teen girl’s mind. The only other project that came even close was the seminal 90’s teen show, My So-Called Life.

In case you’re not familiar, The Edge of Seventeen, written and directed by first time director Kelly Fremon Craig, follows Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), an awkward, sarcastic, insecure, compulsive over-talking teen. She has a best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) who inconveniently starts dating her older, extremely popular brother (Blake Jenner). As a result, Nadine goes off the deep end, forced to face herself and her insecurities. MAJOR DRAMA ENSUES…

Here are just a few reasons you need to get your butt off the couch this weekend and see The Edge of Seventeen:

The Cast

I’m gonna be real with y’all. The most important role in this film is Nadine and Hailee Steinfeld knocks it out of the park. She’s so real and awkward and honest and just, agh, this was me in high school. No doubt she’ll be going on to great things…

car.gif
I wanna tear up just thinking about this scene. 

The supporting cast is also strong, especially when led by Woody Harrelson who plays her smart-ass teacher, Mr. Bruner. He’s his usual smarmy self. He brings out the major laughs of the film.

Additionally, Hayden Szeto is also wonderful as Erwin Kim, Nadine’s awkward, nerdy love interest. There are a few moments where he’s so sincere you’re like, Um, if she doesn’t want you, I’ll date you!

almost kiss.gif
A classic case of misreading signals…lol

Blake Jenner, Haley Lu Richardson, and Kyra Sedgewick are good too. Unfortunately, they’re just not given much screen time.

Oh, and yes, that is Andi, aka Meredith Monroe, from Dawson’s Creek as Harrelson’s wife.

The Screenplay

Where do I start? I was lucky enough to read the script a few months back and even as a script, it was fantastic. The dialogue is witty and awkward and real.

The plot feels down-to-earth. This is, to me, what really separates it from films of the John Hughes ilk. I love those movies as much as the next girl, but I know I’m not watching reality. In this, every beat feels like it could really happen. And it doesn’t end with fireworks or a magical kiss, just our main character moving one step forward in her life.

pooped in the big potty.gif
Just one of Nadine’s witty, totally adult retorts.

What the script also does well is comment on the loneliness of being a teenager. I know, I know. It’s been done before. But, for some reason this one really felt real to me. I think it’s partially because I’m similar to Nadine. I hide my awkwardness and insecurity with sarcasm and witty retorts. It all comes down to loneliness, not feeling like you fit in, thinking that you’ll never quite be normal.

Oh, and Nadine’s whole way of explaining her whole not driving thing…TOO CLOSE TO HOME.

The Direction

Kelly Fremon Craig also wrote the script for another coming of age film a few years back, Post Grad which starred Alexis Bledel. I remember liking the film, but feeling that it was just a bit forced which is the exact opposite of the feeling in this film.

Though the script was fantastic, it was Fremon Craig’s direction which brought this movie to life. Certain stylistic choices made all the difference. For instance, in a major showdown with her brother, Nadine reveals her true feelings quietly, no overly sappy music. She just quietly states how she feels and it breaks you.

below average.gif
Don’t worry, my weekends were below average in high school too, Nadine.

There’s a sensitivity and an understanding of that age that Fremon Craig clearly has. Every problem feels like it’s the end of the world and Craig understands that and validates it.

The Music

This may be a bit dumb, but I really enjoyed the music. It’s an eclectic soundtrack, featuring Santigold, Angus and Julia Stone, and Aimee Mann.

It’s awkward, genuine, and poignant. 

The teen, or coming of age genre has been overrun by cliches in past years. And don’t get me wrong, this film has some of those cliches too. But, it stands out because it’s rooted in reality. I felt like it captured something special in its writing and direction as well as its performances, something human and completely relatable.

If you were an awkward teenager, this film is sure to resonate. I’m excited to see what films Kelly Fremon Craig goes on to make. So, if you’re looking for Thanksgiving weekend movies to see, please consider this one. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cringe. It’s got it all!

Images and gifs property of STX Entertainment.