Watched May 25, 2012
Adam Cook’s review:
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 the dog gets his own subtitles too) and basically every aspect of McGregor’s character from his job, mannerisms and the friends that he keeps.
I really wanted to like it, there is so much potential to tell a heartfelt story about an old man discovering life for the first time when it is all too late. Plummer is a revelation in the role, revelling in his new found freedom yet never camping it up or cheapening the character’s transformation. When he battles cancer there is a chance for wringing the emotions but he plays the scenes beautifully. Every time his character is on screen the film comes to life. Unfortunately, this is very much McGregor’s story and none of these moments ever rings true. In the end, Beginners is a film of fleeting brilliance marred by trite and aggravating embellishments.