Movie review of “Other People”: This insightful story, from former “Saturday Night Live” writer Chris Kelly, follows a television scribe (Jesse Plemons) who sees his mother (Molly Shannon) through her final months of life. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
It’s possible one of the kindest things to do for a dying parent is take her to an improvisational comedy club.
That’s what happens during one of the lovelier moments in “Other People,” when television writer David (Jesse Plemons) briefly returns to his roots in a comedy group in New York City. His mother, Joanne (Molly Shannon), dying of cancer, is invited to the stage to talk a little about her background and then watch as the troupe, including David, turns details from her life into seeds for an evolving, free-spirited, funny performance.
It turns out that’s one of the few gifts David can offer Joanne that isn’t steeped in self-consciousness as he copes with her final months of life while also grappling with other problems.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Other People,’ with Molly Shannon, Jesse Plemons, Bradley Whitford, Zach Woods, Maude Apatow, Paul Dooley. Written and directed by Chris Kelly. 96 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Sundance Cinemas (21+).
Written and directed by Chris Kelly, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer, “Other People” — wise and keenly observed on details of behavior and conflict — has the painful familiarity of a season of death.
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At the heart of Kelly’s script is a blunt truth: Being at the side of a loved one’s dying stages amplifies our usual solitary destinies.
That point is driven home in scenes where Joanne, a teacher, visits with her colleagues and extended family, only — as we witness through David’s eyes — to look defeated by a lack of real connection.
Mother and son are genuinely closer (Plemons and Shannon are remarkable together), and yet David’s sense of helplessness underscores his isolation everywhere: in his work, with his ex (Zach Woods), in his remoteness from his sisters and from the father (a fascinating Bradley Whitford) who won’t acknowledge David is gay.
A number of Kelly’s scenes play out like stand-alone sketches — some quite funny; not all of them essential — rather than parts of a whole. But that’s easily forgiven considering the candor of his insights and his strong cast.