Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Beginners

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 6th November 2011

When Oliver’s mother dies, his 75 year old father comes out as gay and takes life by the horns.  “I don’t want to be theoretically gay – I want to do something about it”, Hal (Christopher Plummer) tells the bemused but supportive Ewan McGregor, who is dealing with his own paralysed melancholia.

And so begins this mostly charming meditation on life and love and it never being too late and how we should throw ourselves into things and open our hearts and take whatever comes.  Oliver in particular has lessons to learn – he spends his days doodling eccentric sketches instead of designing album covers like he’s employed to, and finds it hard to interact with other young people at parties.  It probably doesn’t help that his father’s dog, Arthur, speaks to him in subtitles.  Perhaps he needs to start a relationship of his own with a cute, mute French girl (Inglorious Basterds’ Melanie Laurent).

Did somebody say “quirky”?  Writer/director Mike Mills made the indie hit Thumbsucker back in 2005, so this was always going to have its own special flavour.  Remarkably, the cinematic pretensions – the voiceover, animations, flashes back and forth in time – all ameliorate rather than alienate.  McGregor is good at playing downcast and mixed up, and Plummer is a delight as the bandana-wearing neophyte of house music.  There is even a surprising turn from ER’s Goran Visnjic as Hal’s crazy young boyfriend.

Laden with quirks and conveniences, with an Amelie-esque whimsy, Beginners shouldn’t quite work – but somehow it ecstatically does.

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4 thoughts on “Beginners

  1. I heard a review of yours (on Contagion) on the radio.

    You are absolutely terrible at your job. You seem inarticulate, and have a very limited knowledge of film.

    “That guy with the knives” in Nightmare on Elm Street?

    “I can’t remember how the disease was transferred.”

    Do us all a favour and stop doing this. You’re untalented, and I imagine you bullshitted your way into work. Well, you’re not fooling anyone. You are dumb.

    • Granted, that review wasn’t my best work, but your comment is bitter at worst and unsubstantiated at best.

      What exactly are you basing my alleged ineptitude on? A sample of the 150+ reviews on this blog, or the 40-odd radio slots?

      If just one review, then while I accept it’s irritating to hear some idiot prattling away on the radio, you can’t possibly know how inarticulate or ignorant I am the rest of the time.

      In any event, you’ll notice I initially said “scissors for hands” then corrected myself – so I’ve obviously seen at least two movies…

    • You are obviously a douchebag pedant who, if worked in film (maybe you do), would be the continuity person. As Godard said of such people, a total geek. You’re no doubt a fanboy who longs to become an encyclopedia so as not to have to live a proper life.

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