BEGINNERS (2011))

TMG Scale 5.5
Starring  Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic
[Imdb.com lists this film as a 2010 effort,  but it was only just released on June 3rd in the U.S.]

Beginners BEGINNERS (2011))When you get caught up trying to say way too much, you end up saying pretty much nothing. Hence the central problem with this film.  On the plus side, Melanie Laurent as Anna is smokin hot. Chris Plummer is amusing and likeable no matter if his character is straight, gay or in between. The demand for Jack Russel terriers will only go up after this movie hits wider release. Arthur…got to love that name….is an adorable, practical and common sensed laced dog that stole the movie.  Arthur’s  scripted subtitltes were priceless.

On the other hand, Ewan McGregor sets a new standard for angst that only Sean Penn can hope to ever reach. On the surface,  this film seemed destined to be about a son named Oliver (McGregor) trying to deal with his father Hal (Plummer) coming out as gay after 40 years of marriage and the death of his mother. It is just too complex.  If you ask me, the whole gay message in this film, whatever it might be, got totally lost in translation (or lack thereof.) This story woudl have been better as simply a son dealing with the illness and death of his loving father. I recall many of the same emotions conveyed in this film when my own Dad fell ill.  The scenes of  Oliver shaving Hal’s face, helping with countless drugs and just enduring the drone of hospital existence rang heavy on my own memories. It hit that level of life, living and loving right on target.

The only real message I found to be true here is that when they send you home and  move your bed to your living room, better check the fine print in your living will.  The only other message I found is that Apple will support these indie efforts as it only took ten minutes for an iMac to appear onscreen. [It was a shameless product placement we see in all films but those from Sony Pictures.] At least it fit because the stereotype is that all gay people only use Mac computers, right?  Geeez.

Instead,  the film wandered off into unintelligible gay themes. Don’t ask me. It then dived sidewise into a fun romance that only oozed with doubt, angst, self pity and lack of faith in life. Oliver and Anna are two sensitive and fun souls meant for each other. So why do they break up? No explanation. This film reminded me of going to a free buffet after five days with the flu—my stomach was empty, I was hungry and it all looked good, but I just did not want to eat anything,  . . . but I appreciated the price. If that metaphor is too much for you, so will this movie. There is is a cute, very heterosexual scene between Oliver and Anna in a bookstore viewing an old copy of The Joy of Sex. Their playful picking of various pages to try reminded me of the touching exchange in The Other Sister (1999) between Juliette Lewis and Giovanni Ribisi.

I am sure gay groups will herald this film as a masterpiece and vote it for numerous awards.  But why?  What was the point of the film?  What case or message does it advance? Even the most conservative acknowledge gays are very misunderstood, deal with many social dilemmas and certainly have feelings, care and love like everyone else. Okay. And the point is?  This could have been a much better film had it just focussed on a man dealing with the loss of his Dad and trying to find himself and love. The fact that his Dad turned out to be gay would have been better treated as trivial. His Dad certainly had no problem with it.   Somebody decided it had been three weeks since a gay message film had hit the market and decided it was due.  Go see Buck instead this week. Gay or not, a man can learn much more from a horse.

Joy Lynn: This movie is a meaningful and complex story.  However, it is not a movie for the mainstream moviegoer.  This is not your typical romantic comedy or drama.  It is a heartfelt sad story with a cast that is very authentic in their roles.   And, TMG is right, the Jack Russell Terrier is adorable. The dog is a fun and  a much needed addition to such a sad movie.

There are lots of subtle messages in the movie with the most apparent being  ” It’s never too late to start living”. The negative side to this film is the slow pace and the overall sadness.  It could have used a bit more comedy to offset the sadness. But, if you like real life drama and dialog this film gives it to you.

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