REVIEW: Beginners

18 07 2011

A beautiful sampling of life and love, “Beginners” is a free-form comedic and dramatic tale from director Mike Mills that feels as personal to us as it is to him.  Bringing many autobiographical elements into the mix, the film radiates a powerful authenticity, which then translates into charm.  This neurotic charisma is a vital necessity for the movie because it makes us smile through it all – and Mills brings it all to the table.

His “Beginners” is the dark underside of the Hollywood romantic comedy, full of all the indecision, uncertainty, and challenges of real life love.  It successfully takes us through the ups and downs of a relationship, complete with laughter, warmth, pain, and upset.  Not since 2009’s “(500) Days of Summer” has a movie unflinchingly spat in the face of the genre, but rather than invert the banalities for comic effect, Mills simply sticks to the truth and tells the tale as if there had never been a formula planted in our heads for what a romance should look like.  It’s a romantic vision, perhaps, but at least it is a vision, which is more than can be said for most movies nowadays.

Mills also juxtaposes the blooming romance between Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and Anna (Mélanie Laurent, best known as Shoshana from “Inglourious Basterds“) with a different kind of relationship, the withering one between Oliver and his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) in the years before dating Anna.  Their rapport was never strong to begin with as Hal was a distant workaholic father while his son grew up, and upon being widowed, he reveals to Oliver that he is actually homosexual.  As he suffers from terminal liver cancer, Hal is determined to live his life the way he couldn’t while he was living a lie and connects with the gay community, embracing a new lifestyle complete with a young boyfriend (Goran Visnjic).

Read the rest of this entry »