Ordinary People 1980 ★★★★

Conrad (Timothy Hutton, who is gorgeous, powerful and baby-faced in this movie) is the survivor of a freak boating accident in which his older brother Buck died. First I had to get past the tragedy of their parents naming them Buck and Conrad. His mother (Mary Tyler Moore) is unsympathetic and cold, far more concerned about keeping up appearances and keeping a clean home than the fact that her son tried to kill himself. His father (Donald Sutherland) is easygoing and well-meaning but has no idea how to help his son. In a last-ditch attempt to get his life back under control, Conrad grudgingly drags himself to see a psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch - DADDY EPPES!) who eventually helps him through it all.

I think this is another one of those films that was groundbreaking at the time, when America was trying to get in touch with a little sensitivity. It holds up surprisingly well, though, even if most of the characters aren't as complex as you'd expect now. I'm taking a class called 'Trauma, Memory and Culture,' so it was interesting seeing the film from that angle (even if I didn't rent it for the course.) The use of flashbacks is effective and all the performances are really good - Robert Redford's a really good director, actually. The music's fantastic and the locations are great - the winter setting suits the movie so perfectly. I think it was a little too long and overwraught at some moments (one more mention of how people were feeling would have me throwing things at the TV), but the actors are strong enough to deliver some pretty dodgy dialogue without making it sound too corny or contrived.

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