2016, NR, 97 min. Directed by Chris Kelly. Starring Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford, Maude Apatow, Madisen Beaty, Zach Woods, June Squibb, Paul Dooley.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Sept. 16, 2016
For the lucky ones, untouched by tragedy, bad things are what happen to other people. That’s how comedy writer David (Plemons) processes the world, at least, until his mother (Shannon) is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he moves back home to nurse her through her last months, and “other people” become his people. Far removed from New York, his improv community, and an ex-boyfriend who still feels tenderly for him, he’s marooned in his hometown of Sacramento with a family that loves him but doesn’t necessarily get him – most especially his father (Whitford), who still isn’t comfortable talking about David’s sexuality.
David isn’t comfortable, period. Plemons, typically a standout supporting character, takes the lead here, finding physical inroads into this anxious, in-his-head character – in the way he carries his weight, or sweeps his bangs aside in a ghost of a tic. It’s a moving performance netted in a film so reserved it risks having no impact at all. (It suffers from comparison to last year’s similarly scoped but rawer indie, James White.) The autobiographical feature film debut from sketch-comedy writer Chris Kelly (Saturday Night Live, Broad City), Other People is gentle, heartfelt, and of a delicate build. Kelly’s best observations are small but true: the touching banality of a bad pop song, and that “other people” is in fact most people, if you’re paying attention.