Sunday, January 08, 2017

Other People (2016)

Film: Other People (2016)
Stars: Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford, John Early, Zach Woods
Director: Chris Kelly
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

Okay, I'm forcing myself to write some reviews as I'm almost obnoxiously overdue in terms of reviews to get out into the world at this point, and because "why not?" is a question that we should ask at least twice a day, I'm going to start out with Other People, because which of my readers hasn't been clamoring for a review of this early September movie as opposed to Best Picture frontrunners Manchester by the Sea, La La Land, Lion, and Hidden Figures, all of which also sit in my "to do" list (don't judge-I'll get there in a few).

(Spoilers Ahead) The film centers on one of those plots that you feel you've seen in hundreds of independent films to the point where you wonder if there's anything new that can be said about such a situation.  We have Joanne (Shannon), an elementary teacher who is dying of cancer, and has a close relationship with her son David (Plemons), who is gay and also going through a bit of an identity crisis as he's an aspiring screenwriter who recently ended his long-time relationship but doesn't want to tell his mother.  As someone who is also Plemons' age, perpetually single, with an elementary teacher mother that is nearly Shannon's age, I will admit that there were moments here where I was slightly uncomfortable with the film as it felt a little bit too real for me in some regards, but that's neither here nor there.

The film itself trods over pretty frequent territory with the dying parent territory.  Honestly, between this, A Monster Calls, Captain Fantastic, Manchester by the Sea, and Kubo and the Two Strings, this is not a kind year for parents at the cinema (if I missed some, remind me in the comments).  Shannon is fine, though I didn't get all of the hoopla, as Joanne.  I get that there's an incredible amount of specificity and physicality in her work, but occasionally you feel like this is the same movie you've seen over-and-over again in independent film, and we're just giving another actor a chance to shine.  As a result, I wonder if it was more the role than anything else that has attracted some accolades along the way.

Plemons is also pretty standard, except for one terrific scene in the center of the film.  The movie does a good job of showing different sides of the gay experience, and different personalities within it, with a great sequence involving a young gay man performing a drag show for his birthday.  The best part of the movie, though, was showing the relationship between David and his ex Paul (Woods), who have sex despite the fact that they've been broken up for a while.  There's a wonderful intimacy in this scene that you don't usually get in films, especially between gay men, since cinema is usually precipitated on the "coming out" period of their life rather than the long-time partner period.  If the film had maybe had that as the centerpiece with Joanne's illness being what's drawing David away, I think it would have felt like a stronger piece of work.  Instead, we're left with a very sad story that unfortunately feels too redundant for the art-house.

Those are my thoughts-how about yours?  I know I'm in the minority here, so if you choose to disagree, please share below!  If you haven't seen it yet, where do you hope this newfound dramatic fame takes Shannon's career?

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