When it comes to relationships, we’re all beginners.
A young man is rocked by two announcements from his elderly father: that he has terminal cancer, and that he has a young male lover.
There is a really great heartbreaking and poignant story here of personal discovery yet it is buried under irksome and near film-destroying levels of quirk. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise given it is from the director of Thumbsucker, a film suffocated by its indie credibility, yet with such a personal story I was hoping Mike Mills would have delivered a more restrained and truthful film this time around.
Instead we get a horribly self-aware film that constantly undoes the great work by Christopher Plummer and his fascinating character. Every embellishment seemed to rub me up the wrong way from the unnecessary voice over narration, the way McGregor talked to his father’s dog (and to make things immeasurably worse…
If I can forgive Ewan McGregor doing an American accent in your film, you've probably done something right. Beginners is sweet but not cloying, quirky but not too precious, and subtly moving. McGregor, Plummer and the absurdly pretty Laurent are brilliant, as is the photography and score. And Arthur.
I have not liked Ewen MacGregor in anything since Trainspotting but here he is marginally more likeable. Beginners is a well-made and acted film in which the show is stolen completely by Christopher Plummer, who gives a performance that earned him an Oscar (though I think that's a bit of a stretch - he's great, but not that great). Melanie Laurent seems strangely out of place but that's forgiveable because she's so damn lovely and charming. The subtitles indicating the thoughts of the dog were a cute Miranda July-ish touch, which I guess makes sense seeing as the director Mike Mills is married to July. A lovely film.
Two loners click at a social gathering. The irony. Ewan draws comparisons between his new relationship and that of/with his parents. Sometimes sweetly melancholic and other times a little sickly pompous. The maker has tried to snazz it up with snapshot carousels, quirky narration and dog subtitles but they didn't really work. The relationship between Ewan and the French lass is sometimes entertaining and sometimes very Sixth Form. I find two thirty odd year old, rich, good looking, single people that fancy each other pulling sad faces :( about whether they want to carry on shagging one another or not, a bit tiresome. So, the main entertainment comes from Christopher Plummer who refuses to accept his impending death and finally…
The montages save the day. Everything Beginners does is achieved just in its parade of surprisingly evocative "This is what the president looked like. This is what pretty looked like" sequences, as well as other montages like the graffiti and the clean, graphic design elements like the quarters. But that would deprive us of Christopher Plummer's exuberance. Beyond that, it's a fine film. Delicately colored and composed for our judgment. Maybe lighter on ideas (of paternity, history, liberation) than it thinks. But an interesting work nonetheless.
Mike Mills' 2005 debut Thumbsucker is a film whose quirky charm was completely lost on me, but where that film was drenched in artificiality, he somehow turned that charm into something grounded and serene with his sophomore feature Beginners. This is a movie that honestly transcends words, for me. The kind of impact it had on me will never be able to be described, but it's one that touched me at my soul and deeply moved me in a profound way. The film is built around this message from Mills' personal life that you have the capacity to assess your situation at any point in life and make a change for the better. However, in the most un-Hollywood sense, Mills…
I get why some people wouldn't like this film so much because of it having a sort of self-aware smart style, but I don't care. Why? Because the style really worked for me. However, I didn't like this film solely for its non-linear storytelling structure. No, I also got really invested with the characters and how they related to each other, especially Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent, but I can't not mention Christopher Plummer's great work. I always really appreciate romance films where the couple aren't unlikable human beings (I'm looking at you, McConaughey rom-coms). Oh, and the dog IS pretty cute, so sue me.
Beginners is feel-good and incredibly acted by all three leads, especially Plummer, it is original in matters of structure and dialogue and it is not sad despite of the main plot.
I'll be frank, Melanie Laurent was the first reason I decided to watch this movie. However, it turned out to be a highly appealing drama that had me hooked instantly in the first 15 minutes. The versatile timeline in which the movie is presented develops a bittersweet sentiment as we watch the relationship between the main characters develop.
A simple boy-meets-girl romance filled with "modern" aspects of social relations and daring elements of human resolution, acceptance, joy, and the bitterness of death.
Did I mention Melanie Laurent is superb in this film?
The stuff with Christopher Plummer is absolute gold, but the super-twee McGregor / Laurent stuff got a little on my nerves. Still, about the best depiction of an older person dying of cancer I've yet seen.
Film 8/100 of MattJ137's Jeapardous June Challenge
I loved Beginners.
Mike Mills has created a touching and entertaining story filled with authentic and engaging characters, a great sense of humour and what may be the most adorable movie dog in recent memory.
Beginners' greatest strength is its characters. Fantastic performances by McGregor and Laurent, a stand-out Christopher Plummer, and an often overlooked Goran Visnjic, work to create genuine and likable human beings. Their relationships feel true and heartfelt, as each set of actors' chemistry was immediately evident. Mills presents us with a group of people I would love to spend time with, especially Plummer's character, which kept me engaged throughout the whole film.
Some have commented on its obvious indie…
*VERY BRIEF SPOILER MENTION*
If I had to use one word to describe this movie, it would be: pretentious.
This movie attacks love and homosexuality and dirty blonde foreign girls with a disappointingly fixed indie lens. The complexities of love and death are overshadowed by vague one-liners and spontaneous acts that seemed incredibly out of character. The film had a beautiful premise to start with, and the low budget and short time frame was actually an advantage for the style that Mills was shooting for. However, I think Mills definitely shot above and beyond his vision, pushing for more disillusioned statements and imagery than for the heart and emotion he was looking to infuse into his makeshift biographic film.
Though I thought the movie a little boring at first, as long as it evoluted, it showed me how simple things are those that really matter and how situations that have everything to go wrong, go right. Sometimes we don't get what we want only because we don't try enough or really want that to happen! Showing what you really are and making what you really love with people you can always count are the keys for a good life.
You make me laugh but it's not funny :)
Your mother dies, and your father dies just after. What do you do? This film touches upon, yet is clearly different than "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind", where McGregor acts well and the tempo rolls on. It felt real to me; and the film picks up on "what is real?" without becoming pretentious. A lovely film.
¨Well, let's say that since you were little, you always dreamed of getting a lion. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and you wait but the lion doesn't come. And along comes a giraffe. You can be alone, or you can be with the giraffe.¨
Beginners is one of those movies that stands out due to the strong performance from the cast. The actors tell the story, and sometimes a look can say more than actual words. Ewan McGregor has this look in his eyes that constantly reminds us in this film that his character is a very sad and lonesome guy. There is no need for him to tell us, we just know it by the…