movies: beginners

this is what love feels likeFirstly I have to thank Sebastian from Hopscotch Films for sending me double passes to Beginners so that not only could I go along but I could give away tickets to my blog readers/Twitter followers.

This movie is the perfect antidote to all of those "tentpole" movies with no plot, bad acting and lots of explosions.

Beginners is a beautiful, slow, quiet and sad movie. Sad and funny often at the same time actually.

The story is simple too... Oliver (Ewan McGregor) meets and falls in love with Anna (Mélanie Laurent) which triggers memories of his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer) who, following 44 years of marriage, came out of the closet at age 75.

The movie switches between the now of Oliver and Anna's relationship and Oliver's relationship with his father in the last months of his life. Occasionally these switches aren't completely apparent but for the most part the movie lets you know where you are.

All the performance are masterful... simple, emotional and masterful. Plummer captures the pathos of an older gay man who is making the best of an imperfect relationship with a much younger man without resorting to a stereotype.

Watching McGregor is never a chore, but I've never seen him look quite this luminous in a movie before... especially his eyes... so big props to the cinematographer for that.

And watching him and Laurent fall in love on screen is beautiful, if slightly painful as they both come to the relationship with their own sets of baggage.

One of the other things I liked was the use of a piece of text from The Velveteen Rabbit...
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
I already have an emotional connection to that particular book, and that particular piece of text to be honest, and using it to describe the experience of a man who comes out of the closet at the age of 75 was brilliant and very nearly made me cry.

The movie also features possibly the best use of subtitles and a dog. It sounds cheesy, but it's actually really funny and sweet.

If the movie has any weak points, it's a combination of the performance of Goran Visnjic as Hal's younger boyfriend and the slightly clichéd plot point between Anna and Oliver that it most simply boiled down to "I don't know how to have a relationship".

The Visnjic character feels like much more of a stereotype and while I can see the purpose of the character, I cringed every time he came on screen.

In then end though, it's flaws (and the fact that, in essence, nothing much happens) are greatly outweighed by the heart and soul of the movie.

yani's rating: 4 giraffes out of 5

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