75 of 81 people found the following review helpful
Heartfelt Account of Finding Love at Life's Unexpected Moments,
This review is from: Beginners (DVD)
There's an emotional acuity to this bittersweet 2011 dramedy that makes the loose structure of the first-person narrative easier to take than one would expect. Director/screenwriter Mike Mills bases his movie on a series of events that occurred in his own life. Just months after Mills' own mother passed away, his 75-year-old father announced that despite their 44-year marriage he was gay and intended to spend his remaining days exploring the hidden side of his libido. Cancer cut short those plans but not the life affirming spirit with which he explored his new lifestyle. It certainly helps that Mills cast 81-year-old Christopher Plummer as the father since his naturally erudite manner complements his character Hal's innately fey quality in a way that makes his late-blooming emotional emancipation all the sweeter. It's a lovely performance well worth remembering during next year's award season.
The protagonist of the story is Oliver, a sensitive cartoonist who is nearing forty and finding himself unable to sustain a lasting relationship. Family dysfunction has taken its toll on Oliver given that he discovers six months after his mother Georgia's death that Hal was in the closet most of Oliver's life, thus explaining why his parents never appeared to connect emotionally. Oliver is obviously concerned a similar fate of repressed feelings will befall him as he rummages through Hal's things after his death. Flashbacks show a childhood dominated by Georgia's eccentric manner with Hal relegated to the shadows of doorways always on his way to another business trip. Meanwhile, closer to the present, Oliver meets a free-spirited French actress named Anna, whose flirtatious manner gives way to her own vulnerability since she has her own family-related challenges in developing romantic connections. Mills intertwines his characters' destinies with the unwieldy nature of life in all its familiarity. There is little one could call pat and predictable in this film.
As Oliver, Ewan McGregor (last seen in the underrated The Ghost Writer) has never come across more comfortably onscreen, making it easy to empathize with his plight without the contrivance of standard Hollywood convention. He has a nice rapport with Mélanie Laurent (she was the vengeful Shosanna Dreyfus in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds), and her beguiling portrayal of Anna reminds me of Natassja Kinski during her early Polanski years. Playing Hal's much-younger lover Andy, Goran Visnjić does a surprisingly liberated turn completely submerging any remnants of his ER character, while another TV veteran, Mary Page Keller, brings a nice subversive edge to her performance as Oliver's somewhat hardened mother who had long ago accepted her husband's sexual orientation. This is a movie of small moments and quiet revelations, so it won't suit everyone's attention span, but it is worthwhile viewing for more patient, discriminating viewers.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 26, 2012 3:15:40 AM PST
Fred J. Weiner says:
convinced me to purchase it; i guess being a gay man helps.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 29, 2012 4:32:41 PM PST
Ed Uyeshima says:
Good for you, Fred...Enjoy!
Posted on Dec 22, 2012 2:30:43 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 22, 2012 2:31:54 AM PST
Best part of the movie: Christopher Plummer--and the only reason to watch this affected mess. How does one care for characters so unbelievable? McGregor and Laurent have a soul/sexual connection **before** they even talk to each other? The dog expresses his thoughts in subtitles? McGregor's character is not sensitive, he's tiring! If you must watch, you may appreciate Plummer in spite of the limitations of the script. Quirky is one thing...narcissism is quite another.
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