An uneven, yet pungently ad-libbing mood allows for an ensemble to shine in a comedy-drama touched by suppression and mortality.
Chris Kelly writes and directs Other People, and his debut is fruitful in particular for co-stars Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon, the latter having a 'Saturday Night Live' connection with Kelly.
A flashback of a tale which is observational, heartbreaking, and wry has Plemons as the fulcrum of David, a struggling Big Apple scenarist, returning to Sacramento to care for mother Joanne, a deglamorized, if spry Shannon, coping with a rare form of cancer.
David's sisters (Maude Apatow, son of Judd, and Madisen Beaty) aren't happy that he left in the first place, but what might be akin to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (thematically and subject-wise to a degree) is grounded in earthy humor, but also real-life, impassioned interpersonal relational angst.
One standout scene takes place in a supermarket where a laxative is concerned, but the decisions to connect or perhaps more wisely to have maybe backed on those revelatory choices offers the kind of rewards where only these larger issues seemingly happen to other people.
Part of the clashing includes David's sexual orientation, having a boyfriend (Zach Woods) that conservative dad Norman (a fine Bradley Whitford) has never met; then David's retreat to an old classmate Gabe (John Early) as Joanne's illness advances. The irony in the performances of Plemons and Shannon have an effective dovetailing prowess in moments of levity, as well as detouring in unexpected directions. Especially when it comes to the energy of Shannon from some acerbic dialogue allotted by Kelly. Fearless and focused power of the performers lift Other People from slippery shifts, but the togetherness of cast, crew and filmmaking give it an awkwardly natural flair which elicits laughter and tears.