Genre: Drama / Comedy
Director: Mike Mills
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Višnjić, Mary Page Keller
Duration: 105 min.
Oliver meets the irreverent and unpredictable Anna only months after his father Hal has passed away. This new love floods Oliver with memories of his father who following 44 years of marriage came out of the closet at age 75 to live a full, energized, and wonderfully tumultuous gay life. The upheavals of Hal's new honesty, by turns funny and moving, brought father and son closer than they'd ever been able to be. Now Oliver endeavors to love Anna with all the bravery, humor, and hope that his father taught him.
Beginners is a film written and directed by Mike Mills, and is based partly on his own life. It is his second feature following 2005's Thumbsucker and premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.
Having been infatuated with Mélanie Laurent since her breakout role in 2006's Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas and a fan of Ewan McGregor for much longer than that, I've been looking forward to seeing this one ever since I first heard about it months ago.
Indie romance films are usually just as formulaic as mainstream ones, throw together a bunch of quirky characters, a life changing situation, sprinkle in a cool soundtrack, and there you have it. Beginners has all of that, but manages to break out on its own with a smart screenplay, melancholy yet playful mood, and some wonderful acting from the entire cast.
The story weaves three different timelines in Oliver's (Ewan McGregor) life. As a young child observing his parents' relationship, then later during the last years of his father Hal's (Christopher Plummer) life, and in the present as he struggles with the events in his past and with his current relationship with Anna (Mélanie Laurent). All cleverly mixed in with some stylish narrative montages and a serious but not too serious, funny but not too funny delicately balanced atmosphere that feels genuine and never sappy or overly sentimental.
Veteran actor Christopher Plummer owns the screen in every scene he's in and might just be in for some nods for best supporting actor come awards season. The impossibly photogenic couple, Ewan McGregor and Mélanie Laurent share a strange chemistry as two sad and lost souls and their developing relationship is fascinating to watch. The highlight for me is the brilliantly charming scene where they meet at a costume party. He dressed as Freud and she as a silent film actress, unable to speak due to laryngitis. The real star of the film though is Arthur, the Jack Russell terrier proving to be more than just a cute plot device, as his subtitled thoughts are some of the funniest lines in the movie.
It's not a masterpiece by any stretch, but still an enjoyably heartfelt labor of love with some fine acting. More than you can say about most of the films currently being shown at the multiplex.