I love it when I finally get my act together and make it to the theater to see what turns out to be an outstanding film. Especially when I time it so the theater’s fairly empty (first show/last show). Mike Mills’ Beginners is the true story of a straight son who learns how to love and be in a relationship from his father who comes out of the closet at age 75 after his mother passes away. Ewan MacGregor and Christopher Plummer star as son and father. This is really about their relationship. It’s about the son learning from his father’s mistakes. It’s about the father making the most of life even when the end is near. It’s heart-warming, sincere, old-fashioned, romantic, contemplative, complex, and yet simple in its execution. And on top of that, it’s the best movie I’ve seen in a long time where a companion animal is not only a part of the family, but is a legitimate character in the film. Not a prop, not a punchline. This dog is really one of the family. I cried. I laughed. I cheered. There’s so much to relate to:  children, parents, divorce, eldercare, morality, new love, new beginnings. But the best thing about this film is its honesty. There are moments between the characters that are so perfect, you’d swear it wasn’t scripted. Such beauty in Mills’ writing. This isn’t traditionally what I would call a gay film. To me, a gay film is when the lead character is L, G, or B. This story is about a 38 year-old straight man. But it’s what he’s learned in life from seeing his father hide his sexuality, create a not-so perfect life with his mother, take care of his family and in the end give himself the gift of a new life after his mother dies that really steers the story. And I haven’t even begun to discuss the styling of the film, the soundtrack both of which are pitch perfect. There is a moment in the film where Ewan’s character is discussing his father’s choices. He shows a map of Los Angeles and points to where his parents were married, then points to a location close-by where the Mattachine Society was having its first meeting. There are many other moments in this film that are just as quiet, just as simple, just as brilliant. A 5 out of 5 if you haven’t already guessed. A modern-day classic. So glad I caught this on the big screen.

2/20/2012:  Saw Beginners again this weekend. I forgot how sad it is, but I still hold on to my claim that it’s a great film. This has become a favorite love story for straight hipster boys. That alone makes this film worth its weight in gold. Ewan MacGregor is perfect as always and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an Oscar for Christopher Plummer next weekend! What a beauty Beginners is.


3 Responses to “Beginners”

  1. Uncle Barb Says:

    Dear Respected Colleague,
    Contextually this film was amazing. The historical scope was as ambitious as an epic novel and it succeeded. Ewan MacGregor, Christopher Plummer and cast created people you could believe in. BUT the use of narrative drives me crazy. Give me dialogue…not long shots of people talking. This was one of the most frustrating movie experiences I have had in ages. I loved the actors, the story was riveting, it is an amazing portrait of the progression of time, but the craft of the film maker was mediocre. Mike, you had rich, deep actors that you stepped all over with your incessant, boring in/out, panorama, in/out … always giving an overview and blocking our view. Really, I yelled at the screen on more than one occasion “Get out of the way”, wishing that Mike Mills trusted his audience more to interpret this film in all its other glories.


    • thereelcharlie Says:

      I don’t hate voice-over. I think it can be a cheap way to advance the plot, but I felt like it worked brilliantly here.


      • Uncle Barb Says:

        It wasn’t just the voice over. It is the over shot scene zooming in and out and all about and the use of layers of scenes to denote changes instead of letting us watch the brilliant actors bring them to life. Every bit of dialogue was good. Andy and Georgia were well done. Their scenes did not get mashed into the the syrupy goo of implied meaning. Instead you got to see them directly. All the other major characters were shackled to the those awful long minutes of visuals with soundtrack of things changing. I could have relaxed into the voice over if there weren’t so many long stretches (without voice over) of things changing. I guess I’m being a bit of a bulldog about this. It is not the first time we have had different opinions and that makes it interesting. Also I want to repeat, I loved much about the film; my criticism is that it did not live up to its potential. 3.5


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