Review: Other People (Sundance)
REVIEW: As serious as that plot description seems, OTHER PEOPLE is actually a comedy. The “black-sheep son trying to reconcile with his distant parents” theme is a well-travelled one at Sundance, especially if one of the parents happens to be dying. Yet, despite the familiarity of the plot, OTHER PEOPLE felt like a fresh spin on the topic, anchored by some sensitive writing and directing from first-time helmer Chris Kelly (a writer at Saturday Night Live) and excellent performances from the cast.
OTHER PEOPLE is a nice change-of-pace for Jesse Plemons, who's quickly establishing himself as one of the most in-demand actors in town. Plemons usually finds himself in edgy supporting parts, but this builds nicely on his recent (superb) turn on Fargo, with him making for a personable leading man. He's certainly a terrific stand-in for Kelly, with this apparently being somewhat autobiographical for the comedy veteran. Kelly really did return home to nurse his dying mother in the early days of his career, and the way Plemons's character tries to reconcile his sexuality with his conservative (but kind) father also feels authentic.
As much as this is a starring vehicle for Plemons, OTHER PEOPLE is also an incredible showcase for Molly Shannon. She's always been a talented comedienne but here she gets to display some dramatic chops we haven't otherwise seen. Her performance as a woman trying to hold onto her dignity and optimism during a horrific battle with cancer is truly affecting – so much so that if OTHER PEOPLE catches-on here at Sundance some awards consideration would be a strong possibility.
Bradley Whitford is also quite good in a difficult part, in that he has to make us feel compassion for a man who's intolerant to his son's sexuality but is also a good and kind man – something the film makes clear over and over. The rest of the supporting cast is terrific too.Maude Apatow and Madisen Beaty play Plemons's sisters, while June Squibb and veteran Paul Dooley steal scenes as the lovable grandparents, who try to maintain good humor in the midst of their daughter's battle with cancer. The best thing to say about a cast in a movie like this is that everyone feels authentic and three-dimensional, and that's certainly the case here. Again, despite the heavy subject OTHER PEOPLE is often hilarious, such as Plemons' repeated encounters with the hugely effeminate little brother of his best childhood friend and clever use of the sappy hit 'Drops of Jupiter.'
OTHER PEOPLE is definitely an early winner at this year's Sundance. Usually the first big premiere of the fest is something with broad appeal. Sometimes the result is wildly successful (WHIPLASH) and other times not (last year's still unreleased THE BRONZE). Given the excellent reception at the press screening, OTHER PEOPLE seems primed to break-out in a big way. It's certainly the kind of movie I come to Sundance hoping to discover every year, in that it really makes you feel. I laughed and even got a little misty-eyed at parts. This one comes highly recommended.