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“Beginners” – Review (POSITIVE)

July 28, 2011

I’m a fan of Mike Mills’ previous indie film, “Thumbsucker”, it was funny, different, sweet, and had some great corky characters. So, when I saw his name appear in the trailer for “Beginners” I knew I had to check this one out too, and the results are good. Like “Thumbsucker”, the story is very original, the characters are corky, but loveable & sweet, the cinematography is pitch perfect, it seems that whenever an indie romance is set in L.A., there’s magic in the cinematography, if done correctly.

The film tells the story about a man named Oliver (Ewan McGregor), living in Los Angles in 2003. Recently his father (Christopher Plummer), who came out of the closet right after his wife of 44 years died, has come down with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. The entire film is strictly non-linear, jumping around timelines of Oliver’s life, the core of the story is about Oliver meeting an actress named Anna (Mélanie Laurent) and falling in love with her. The thing is, he’s scared what could happen if he commits, then things could go bad to worse. He reflects his life; the days as a boy being with his mother (Mary Page Keller), and the last year being with his dying father. You can see the certain levels of happiness Oliver had, but there’s also the saddness that it’s not perfect, life can’t be perfect and it’s hard to accept that.

The script is well written, very well written, it makes me wonder, if Mills had experienced any of this before. His films seem very personal, the characters are personal, with real world problems and nothing fantastical. There are moments where Oliver is describing certain specific things, Mills uses pictures to give us a clear indication of what Oliver is picturing in his mind, I have to say, as a filmmaker I wish I thought of that, that’s pretty clever. There’s a dog in the movie that belonged to Oliver’s dad, and he talks to Oliver through subtitles, it’s a sweet little gimmick and should leave the audience smiling.

We’ve got some terrific talent here, Christopher Plummer gives a terrific performance, I certainly hope he gets an Oscar nomination for this film, it’s one of his better performances in recent years. Ewan McGregor is extremely cool, even though his character is a sad one, he still finds joy in the little things, Ewan did spot on job bringing that aspect to life. Mélanie Laurent (“Inglourious Basterds”), is extremely sweet and sensitive in this film, she’s the kind of girl that guys dream of meeting, she plays the ideal soul mate for Oliver.

For some, the film may be a tad slow here and there, and can be a bit confusing or off putting because of the non-linear editing style, but for those reasons, that’s why I really liked it. It’s not a big action pic, with aliens, superheroes, or crude bridesmaids, it’s story about people and sometimes that’s what we need on a rare occasion, a peoples story.


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