Things Molly Shannon did: THAT.
I know that this makes me sound like just the absolute worst type of person, but I really do prefer indie movies to blockbusters. Big-budget studio movies are still a ton of fun and I’ll continue to go see them, but for a truly satisfying and fulfilling movie experience, nothing beats a well-written and moving independent dramedy. Of course, that’s just my opinion. Trust me, I’m not like Martin Scorsese and deciding what counts as cinema or not. I’ve always been attracted to intimate, small-scale stories with phenomenal writing and even more phenomenal performances. It makes for a wholly worthwhile viewing experience. Other People (2016), a hidden gem from a few years back, is an incredible movie like no other. Wow, this movie was astounding.
Other People follows David Mulcahey, a gay comedy writer who moves from New York City to Sacramento to care for his mother Joanne, who is in the advanced stages of cancer. Though he and his mother share an exceptionally close bond, being home is hard for David and he clashes with his family as they each cope with saying goodbye to Joanne.
Believe me, I was well-aware before choosing to review this movie that it was not going to be a happy-go-lucky story. But I’ve been wanting to see it for a while now mostly because Molly Shannon’s performance has been cited as one of the most underrated in recent memory. Oh, we’ll TALK about Molly Shannon at length, just you wait. Loosely based on the experiences of writer and director Chris Kelly, Other People is exactly the type of movie I adore. Less than a minute in and the exact look, tone and dark humour that you’d expect from an independent dramedy is on full display, instantly drawing me into the intriguing story. I remained captivated for the next hour and a half as David and Joanne’s story unfolded. My stomach hurt from raucous laughter, my mind was tested contemplating the poignant ideals, and my heart was torn to pieces at the intensely dramatic and hauntingly realistic scenes. Other People will take you on the emotional ride of your life as you share in the triumphant highs and the devastating lows of the Mulachey family. The movie literally begins with what turns out to be the ending scene but don’t think you have the entire movie figured out just yet. Experiencing Other People is a journey, one that is often fun, often breathtaking and entirely beautiful to witness.
Leading us on that journey are Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon as David and Joanne respectively. I know Plemons from the hilariously underrated Game Night (2018) where he plays a flat-out comedy character. I was definitely not prepared for the level of excellence he brought to this role. Plemons is a gifted actor. Whether it’s catching up with his childhood friend, played by the hilarious John Early, or sharing a tender moment with his ex-boyfriend, played sweetly by Zach Woods, you feel everything David is going through so fiercely. Although David isn’t a bold or brash character, Plemons makes him come alive and crackle with personality and wit. I was so interested in David and as the movie went on, I wanted to learn more about his character. That right there is a sign of top-notch writing paired with skilled acting.
Speaking of skilled acting, oh my God, Molly Shannon. From her very first scene, Shannon makes you fall in love with Joanne. Strong, hilarious, and brimming with moxie and charm, you’ll come to care for Joanne as if she were your own mother. Or, you know that one friend your mom has, the one you adore because she’s so fun and sweet and you can tell genuinely cares about you? That’s the type of spirit Shannon brings to Joanne. That level of affection for the character is bittersweet as it only hurts twice as bad when you watch the gut-wrenching struggles Joanne faces. Struggles which are performed flawlessly by Shannon. Seriously, how in God’s name did she not get an Oscar nomination for this! She’s brilliant. Transcendent. Moving. Powerful. Shannon dives headfirst into deeply emotional scenes and brings you to the brink of tears, then lights up the screen with her infectious and effortless comical stylings. You laugh with Joanne, but you mourn with her as well. This amazing performance is a side to Shannon we’ve never seen before and I sincerely hope to see more of in the future.
During the course of the movie, I couldn’t stop myself from going “wow,” over and over again. In every way, this movie is excellent. From the hair and make-up team nailing the effect of what chemotherapy has on the body, to the excruciatingly real experiences you go through when dealing with a dying loved one, Other People is a true snapshot of human life. Yes, at times it can be hard to watch, but I strongly suggest you do. There’s so much love, life, truth and artistry to this movie, it’s really something special. You know what else is special about Other People? The incredible collection of side characters! I’m telling you, it’s a who’s who of “hey! I know that actor from that one thing!” We’re talking appearances from Retta, Matt Walsh, Nicole Byer, D’Arcy Carden, and even June Squibb as one of the most lovable and adorable grandmothers I’ve ever seen. Although, I sense that’s just Squibb being her authentically lovable and adorable self.
For me, a sure sign that I’ve fallen in love with a movie is if it’s inspired me to write something equally as entertaining or impactful. Other People has absolutely done that. A wonderful reminder that all you need to succeed is a strong script and dedicated actors, I encourage you to seek out Other People. Heads up, it’s on Netflix! It’s not often that you see a mother and son relationship as deep and full of emotional resonance as this on the big screen and my hat’s off to Other People for handling it so beautifully. Seriously guys, check this movie out.
Have you seen Other People?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!