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Movie ReviewsRating: 4.5 of 5 yaps

Beginners

Quirk is often misunderstood. There are those who use this arty form of humor to draw attention to themselves, but others use it as an attempt to understand the complexities of the world around them. When Oliver (Ewan McGregor) finds out that his father has terminal cancer, all he can imagine is a quarter. Then, a quarter evenly divided into other coins.

He does that not to be clever or unique. It’s an honest moment of the mind going to a place that is safe and understood like knowing there are 25 pennies in a quarter. Throughout the film, Oliver is in a difficult spot. A few years ago, his mother died. He had a difficult relationship with her, seen as he remembers moments that showed her deep misery. After her death, his father (Christopher Plummer) comes out of the closet. Then he dies as well.

Oliver is left alone to deal with the paperwork and the sadness. At least he has his father’s Jack Russell terrier, a scrappy creature who is intensely loyal and just as sad. Oliver’s friends drag him out of his studio and to a costume party. Oliver, of course, dresses as Freud. There, he meets the lovely Anna (Mélanie Laurent of “Inglourious Basterds” fame), who is mute on this night due to her laryngitis. As she communicates through a notepad and pen, it ends up being the perfect introduction because both of them appreciate the gaps of silence.

As Oliver struggles to understand what he’s feeling, the story jumps around in time. He focuses back to moments with his parents in order to try to understand them. The last few months with his dad end up being the most revealing, as he finally is able to see his father completely happy.

Writer/director Mike Mills wasn’t able to capture the right tone with his first film “Thumbsucker.” With “Beginners,” it works because of how emotional it is. Oliver may sound like the typical moody protagonist, but unlike the insufferable heroes of films like “The Art of Getting By”, Oliver doesn’t have all of the answers. He’s likable and he’s caring, but this is a very difficult moment in his life.

Anna is now his pixie-girl savior; she’s in a similar boat. They work together. They understand each other’s humor and times when they need to be alone. Their similarities can lead to being too much, though.

All three of the leading actors are incredible. They play on the subtle and the heartbreaking. A film doesn’t need the characters to continuously be looking deeply inside themselves in order to be deep. The real understanding of who they are is to realize what they are thinking while they are doing. They all accomplish this with expertise and empathy.

“Beginners” is one of the best movies of the year because it’s able to make you connect with its characters on such a personal level. There are no surprises in the plot as the situation is laid out in the first few minutes. What’s important is what happens next.

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6 Responses to “Beginners”

  1. [...] than most of the dramas on this list but no less powerful, “Beginners” is the tale of a sensitive artist (Ewan McGregor) whose father (Christopher Plummer) comes out of [...]

  2. I am so moved by Beginners trailer, the movie has got to be already nominated for 2011 greatest film of the year. I am excitedly looking forward to this movie. I am researching as to where and how soon I can see it. I just love the how in the trailer it seems to be addressing with realism, seriousness, the complicated disappoints, pleasures, revelations of the known’s and unknowns of life explored through self talk and humor exploration by the main character, that we all need to experience as we learn to be human and to deal with life…I applaud this style of film making we all are smart film viewers. We don’t need our mental hands held as we view movies we all know that here are just so many plots, so I value that I am being addressed as an emotionally intelligent viewer…

  3. bruce b says:

    I walked out. I am not entertained by cutting all over the place and going back and forth in time. It didn’t seem to serve the plot–so I gave up.

  4. Matt A says:

    never heard of it. But hey, Ewan and a good review, might as well check it out.

  5. Carol says:

    I was so happy to know that good movies are highly rated. Sometimes I wonder. Good story line and a good movie to discuss,

  6. Lance says:

    I am so glad that this movie got such a high "yap" rating because I was and still am very excited to see it. I checked out the trailer on apple tv and decided that it was on my must see list and after reading that you think it is one of the best movies of the year, I will be making a point to see it as soon as possible. thanks for the awesome review, as usual :-)