Monday, December 26, 2016

Netflix streaming tip: Chris Kelly's smart dying-mom movie, OTHER PEOPLE

If the idea of viewing a film about a dying mother and the family that gathers around her sounds like a downer, the very first scene of OTHER PEOPLE, the much-loved Sundance movie that, as so often happens, died at the box-office, should easily set your mind at rest, even as your funny bone is alerted. That scene, in which immediate grief is interrupted by a phone call, is a low-key but hilarious surprise. And the rest of the movie follows along in similar style. Beautifully acted and written, and directed with unshowy precision, the movie is a quiet triumph.

The writer and director is a fellow named Chris Kelly (at right), who has earned his stripes writing for Saturday Night Live and elsewhere, yet the movie has none of SNL's often grating mediocrity and repetitiveness. Mr. Kelly knows what he's up to, and he does it very well. He has gathered a terrific cast to play those family members and friends, led by Jesse Plemons, as the son, and SNL alumnus Molly Shannon as his mom. Both are first-rate, revealing along the way levels of struggle and pain, intelligence and humor that provide a very nice mix.

The other cast members do fine, unshowy work, as well, and by the end of this 97-minute movie, you'll feel as though you've lived through something. And enjoyed it. The sub-theme here is of a young, gay man searching for family acceptance. While this ground has been tread numerous times already, thanks to Kelly's smart specificity regarding character coupled to Plemons' wonderfully rich performance, we see this struggle as though for the first time.

The characters here -- family members and friends alike -- all seem real and individual. Spending time with them proves alternately surprising and engaging, making Other People one of the year's loveliest oddball treats. The movie is out now on DVD and available to stream via Netflix.

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