Saturday, July 9, 2011

Beginners: Movie Review

The relationships of life told with drama, humour, subtlety, and thoughtfulness.

“Beginners” is one of those life dramas where Oliver (Ewan McGregor) has to take care of his dying father, Hal (Christopher Plummer). Except Hal has just announced that he’s gay and has hooked up with a much younger man, Andy. Oliver hasn’t been able to carry on any relationship but meets the mysterious Anna (Mélanie Laurent) just as he’s grieving over the loss of his father. Oh, and there’s a talking dog.2010

Directed by: Mike Mills

Screenplay by: Mike Mills

Starring: Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer (left) and Ewan McGregor (right) star as father/son
in writer/director Mike Mills' BEGINNERS, an Alliance Films' release.
It’s also one of those kinds of films that tells a story perfectly suited for the medium. There’s well written dialogue, beautiful people playing characters with sad eyes, but then most of the story moves along with art, photographs, and near-silent scenes. Oliver is the sad one but Ewan McGregor is just such a captivating actor that the film can still remain joyful with him as the main character. It’s hard to find somebody as captivating on screen as McGregor, but Mélanie Laurent is.
 It almost doesn’t matter how lackluster their relationship is because it’s fun just watching them.

Above all else, “Beginners” is a relationship film. The father son relationship between Oliver and Hal, Hal’s relationship with his gay boyfriend Andy, the romantic relationship between Oliver and Anna, and the relationship between Oliver and his dysfunctional mother. The story between Oliver and Hal and between Hal and Andy are the only two that take place in the same time. The rest get told by jumping back and forth in time. And that’s where most of the brilliance of this film comes in. It has the best structure of any multi-relationship film I have seen and there are some subtle and thoughtful parallels that he draws between all of them.

Another impressive element is that this is only the second feature film for writer, director Mike Mills. There was a lot of discussion in the theatre as to whether he was from Plummer or McGregor’s generation. He seemed to have a perfect handle on both, and even better, we should be able to expect him to reach even greater heights in his future.

Contrary to popular belief, “Beginners” is not a film about homosexuality. Yes that is the only main characteristic about Hal and Andy, but this film isn’t about them. It’s about finding who you are in life and the hope of finding that out sooner rather than later and then the lessons that can come with the death of a loved one. It’s not about a talking dog—after all, dogs can understand up to 150 words, but they don’t talk.
Best of 2011


Another Year (2010) - A myriad of depressed characters with some up-lifting from a well written script and little bit of humour.

The Kids Are All Right (2010) - The drama and comedy of family relationships and sexuality.