Director: Mike Mills
Writer: Mike Mills
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Višnjić
Country: United States
Language: English, French
MPAA Rating: R
Time: 105 minutes
Genre: Comedy, Drama
USA Release: 6/3/2011 (Limited)
On DVD (USA): 11/15/2011
Awards: 1 Academy Award Win, 1 BAFTA Award Win, 1 Golden Globe Win
With what can literally be described as charming, eccentric and wonderfully realistic. “Beginners” is something that will leave you with a smile and wondering why more movies like this aren’t made. Of course this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for those that it is, will love it. And after an extremely annoying wait to finally get to watch this on the big screen, I’m happy to say that this has officially join the ranks of my best films of 2011 list.
“Beginners” follows Oliver (Ewan McGregor) who is coping with the lost of his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) who shortly after the death of his wife came out as being gay. Led by a series of flashback we see how Hal and Oliver start to become closer as Oliver sees his father truly happy for the first time, but 5 years after coming out he is suddenly diagnosed with terminal cancer. Back in the present of 2003 only a few months after his fathers death Oliver meets Anna, a French actress, at a party and after which starts a relationship with her. During that time, his thoughts constantly go back to his father and the past 5 years where everything was new to the both of them.
The premise of “Beginners” is pretty simple but the brilliance lies deep within the emotion of the story and the performances given. Mike Mills is a wonderful director and has great attributes for telling interesting stories like this and “Thumbsucker”. And just like his directing that not only made the feel of the movie unique, also was the cinematography that just gave me the feeling of watching more of a documentary than a film. But that was more because of the writing and how truthful of a story this was and that was what made it brilliant. Not just because of the idea of the story but how quite and wise it was. The story also brought out this sort of history, with the facts that the character of Oliver uses through out the story not only in real time but also in voice over. Along with giving a deeper look in the Gay Rights Movement, not of the history but of big topics that made up the movement. Showing us how deeply involved the character of Hal was with Gay Rights and how back in the day you had to hide the fact of it all. The story also puts us face to face with the fact that everyone is vulnerable and has secrets/problems. And what led us throughout the film was the music that was from the 30’s through the 50’s with it’s easy of big band and jazz keeping right along and heightening the scenes likeability. As for the supporting cast that makes up Mary Page Keller and Goran Višnjić, the latter who plays Hal’s boyfriend brings out a freshness in the life of Hal. And even though he wasn’t always committed to him, he was still deeply committed. Nonetheless he would sometime show an animosity toward the straight society, but overall a great performance by Višnjić. For Keller, she played Oliver’s eccentric mother, she was loose, free loving and brought an excitement to his life even if he didn’t realize it. Also part of the supporting cast but seen more like the main is Arthur the dog, who basically steals the movie with his cuteness and subtitles.
Now to bring it over to the main cast, Christopher Plummer delivers a Oscar worthy performance as Oliver’s father Hal. As Hal, Plummer shows us a man who has for most of his life has been living with a secret that has left his son very isolated. But in those final years Hal and Oliver finally become father and son. Another glimmer of light is Mélanie Laurent, and as far as I know this is her first full English speaking role and she does a great job of keeping her voice clear when you might think she would mumble. But by playing a French actress Ms. Laurent, showed us that there isn’t anything special about being an actress, just lots of time alone in empty hotel rooms. And because of this, when she does meet Oliver and begins to know him things that she keeps inside herself slowly begin to come out and that not only scares her but confuses Oliver. Laurent’s performance much like McGregor’s was understated and shows us she was right for the part. Now of course we can’t forget about Ewan McGregor who like I just said delivered a very understated and quite performance. As Oliver we see that the character was somewhat withdrawn as a child which contributes to the downfall of his relationships as an adult. And until the death of his mother he was still very estranged from his father but after Hal came out they started to rebuild their relationship.
Well like I said in the beginning this is a very interesting film, that will charm it’s way into your heart with all of it’s wonderfully unconventional characters and story. Becoming without a doubt one of the best films of the years, and also having a Oscar worthy performance by Christopher Plummer, you definitely don’t want to miss out on seeing this film. But make sure you watch the trailer first as it isn’t something that everyone will love.