“People like us, half of them think it won’t work out. The other half believe in magic,” says Anna in the movie Beginners at one point. The essence of the 2010 Mike Mills directorial has been more or less captured in this one sentence uttered by Melanie Laurent’s Anna.
Beginners is a movie about relationships and the idea of loneliness. Why do human beings need companions? Sure, some of them don’t, at least not in the conventional sense of the term. But most do seek some kind of intimacy during their lifetime with people around them. The Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer movie deals with these questions effectively, showcasing where we feel empty, and when we feel assured and ‘full.’
Interestingly, Beginners is inspired by the filmmaker’s own life, when his father came out to him at the age of 75, five years before his death. Just like Mills’ father, the protagonist Oliver’s (McGregor) father Hal (Plummer) also shares he is gay very late into his life, once his wife is dead. Hal, who was ailing, decides to live life to its fullest, even pursuing a relationship with a much younger man than himself. As a result of this burst of energy and honesty from his father, Oliver and Hal grow very close. However, once Hal dies, Oliver couldn’t bring upon himself to pursue a domestic life of any kind on his own. Oliver decides to not give wings to his suppressed feelings for one French actress he encounters, Anna (Laurent). But life had other plans. The rest of the story follows from here.
Though it mostly represents Anna as some kind of a manic-pixie figure in the larger scheme of things, there are many things to admire in Beginners. Its character development of Oliver and Hal, for instance, and how their relationship is established in the movie. There is nothing preachy, judgmental or over-the-top about that beautiful relationship. It is a father-son relationship which is rarely seen in real life, let alone on our screens. The nuances of it, the silences, the rejection, the pain, the attachment and the acceptance as a result of that undying love. That was a unique thing to behold when I first saw Beginners a few years back. And the chemistry that Plummer and McGregor share in the movie is still the backbone of Beginners.
Hollywood Rewind: Girl With a Pearl Earring | Juno | Nightcrawler | Little Miss Sunshine | Moana | The Sound of Music | Benny and Joon | Crimson Peak | The Holiday | My Blueberry Nights | The Help | Mission Impossible | Chef | Revolutionary Road | I’m Not There | Donnie Brasco | Sicario | Edge of Tomorrow | Spy Kids | 1998’s Godzilla | The Others | Phone Booth | Wild | Scream | The Godfather Part II | One Fine Day | True Romance | Little Women | Face-off | Pulp Fiction | Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon | The Age of Innocence | Mean Girls | Die Hard | Never Been Kissed | Citizen Kane | Kill Bill Volume I | Terminator 2 Judgment Day | Titanic | Heat | Home Alone | Jerry Maguire | Brief Encounter | The Truman Show | The Deer Hunter | The Shining | Clueless | Ferris Bueller’s Day Off | Blue Velvet | Taxi Driver | The Lord of the Rings I | Zero Dark Thirty | The Godfather | Say Anything | Warm Bodies | Bright Star | Malcolm X | Stardust | Red Eye | Notting Hill | Fargo | The Virgin Suicides | The Breakfast Club | Enchanted | Walk the Line | Blood Diamond | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | Mortal Kombat | Bridges of Madison County | Edward Scissorhands | Breakfast at Tiffany’s | She’s Gotta Have It | Ever After | The Devil Wears Prada | The Matrix | Creed | Mulan | Ratatouille | Shutter Island | Her | Dead Poets Society | Sleepless in Seattle | Waitress | Pride and Prejudice | The Dark Knight | Before Sunset | School of Rock | About a Boy | A Few Good Men | 50/50 | Begin Again | Brooklyn | Drive | Chocolat | Batman Begins | 10 Things I Hate About You | The Departed | Freedom Writers | Pretty Woman | Dan in Real Life | Jurassic Park | Tangled | Meet Joe Black | Monster’s Ball | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | You’ve Got Mail | Half Nelson | Fight Club | Doubt | American Psycho | Julie and Julia | Forrest Gump | The Silence of the Lambs | Finding Neverland | Roman Holiday| American History X | Tropic Thunder | Before Sunrise | Scent of a Woman | Finding Forrester | Sixteen Candles
The camera work is subtle, lovely, artistic. It captures movement and the lack of it perfectly, so kudos to the talented cinematographer Kasper Tuxen. However, what I did feel a little let down by was how Melanie Laurent’s acting prowess was not explored to its full potential. Instead, she was made to stand as some sort of a sidekick to the father-son relationship. A little more depth to a bewitching-looking Anna would have worked wonders for the film.
But all is well that ends well, because despite the movie’s shortcomings, the late Christopher Plummer was awarded the Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category. He was honoured with a BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild as well as a Golden Globe award, all in the Supporting Actor category. The film also performed decently at the box office, earning $14 million off its $3 million budget.
You can watch Beginners on YouTube.