Sunday, December 18, 2011
In a semi-autobiographical film, writer/director Mike Mills delivers his best effort with "Beginners" that demonstrates the difficulties in coping with the loss of a parent and trying to start a romantic relationship with a woman dealing with her own issues with her parents. The film builds on the heartfelt moments of life through a series of flashbacks and present day moments. The use of flashbacks have been overused in recent years, but each moment in the film compliments the last and builds up to the final moments in the story.
The cancer story has been a popular one for filmmakers recently, with the attempt to balance between the deeply emotional moments and the lighthearted family memories that provide just enough laughter to keep your eyes from getting wet. The film begins with a monologue from Oliver (Ewan McGregor) "My father was 75 when he told me he was gay; four years later he died in this room." Oliver is still trying to get over the death of his mother when his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) tells him he is gay and has a much younger lover. Hal is beginning a new stage in his life and has a young boyfriend that provides a challenge for Oliver. In the complimenting "beginning moment" Oliver meets Anna (Mélanie Laurent), a French actress, and hopes she will help him through the loss of his father.
While this is a story of a father and son bonding, it is also the story of a son coming to grips and trying to console his father who has cancer while dealing with everything else. All that said, it's not really a depressing movie and is definitely worth watching.
The performances in the film are all superb, but in a twist to the all but familiar cancer patient is Christopher Plummer who plays Hal Fields, the father of Oliver (Ewan McGregor). The twist is that after his wife passed away he came out as a member of the gay community. Hal Fields is able to hide the pains of his illness to his friends, but the camera doesn't allow him to shy away from the difficulties during private moments. However, the scene stealer comes from an unconventional actor in the film; Arthur the dog that is a Jack Russell terrier that Oliver reminds is very cute to humans, and that people love them so much that they often put them in TV shows and movies. Oliver tells Arthur that if they are going to live together he is going to have to learn to talk, which is just ridiculous. However, Mike Mills gets creative by providing subtitles to the dialogue of Arthur.
Mike Mills deserves a nomination for the screenplay and Christopher Plummer deserves a best supporting actor nomination for how well he portrayed a stage four cancer patient that is enjoying life. Films like this usually translate well and "Beginners" is no different. Easily a 4 Quack film that I encourage everyone to find on DVD.