Beginners (2011)

by George Watches Things

***

Beginners is a movie about two men, father and son. Hal, played very well by Christopher Plummer, is a veteran in life and love who, despite just beginning his life as an out gay man, has it all figured out. His son is Oliver, somewhat of a mail-in performance from Ewan McGregor, and Oliver doesn’t know anything for sure. He too is a beginner, as he has no clue what he is doing.

The movie starts at one point in time, and two relationships are explored differently: the one between Oliver and Hal is told in reverse order, while the one between Oliver and his new girlfriend (Anna, who is played by Mélanie Laurent) is told going forward. It’s an interesting device.

I hate to use the B word on a film that wants to be so heavy, but Beginners is rather breezy. Sure, it’s charming enough, but it never got to me emotionally. I didn’t connect with the Oliver character at all. Some of the scenes between him and Anna are just plain boring. I didn’t care about Anna’s father. There’s no insight. I blame that not only on McGregor, but also on how the character was built. Hal takes risks, and I admire that. Oliver just sits in his house and stares at the walls.

I didn’t dislike Beginners, but I know it could have been better.

The wrong movie got made. Apparently, this actually happened to the director, Mike Mills, which explains why it’s told from Oliver’s point of view. But this film would have been so much better had the focus been on Hal. I know I enjoyed his scenes more than anything else in the film.

Notes:

  • I was distracted by the line the movie ends on. It is almost the exact same quote that Rabbit Hole, one of my favorite 2010 films, ends on. I’m not sure what to say about it, other than “it’s a good line, and it applies to both films.” It caught me off-guard.
  • There are so many quotable, funny lines. Any favorites?
  • Wasn’t quite sure what to make of the dog, but I know I loved him.
  • Did I miss something? Why did she move out of his house?
  • All of the lovers in the film have accents.
  • You’ve gotta love that deadpan comedy.
  • Beginners is available now on Amazon Instant and iTunes.
  • If you see and enjoy Beginners, I suggest checking out Rabbit Hole and Certified Copy.
  • As of November 5, Beginners is the 12th best film of 2011, in my opinion.
  • Coming soon: you decide the best picture of the 1970s. Stay tuned!
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