You know how, when movie award nominations come out and there’s some movie that’s getting attention that you’ve never even heard of and there are those tedious people who say things like “Oh that? Oh sure, it came out months ago. Can’t believe you missed that!” I’m very familiar with those people and can now give you a tip, because one of those really, really good movies is in theaters right now. So in fact, you can be the one to have seen it long before the rest of the world does. A little film that’s getting excellent buzz but that’s still pretty under-the-radar because it doesn’t take place in Bangkok or in space or on stranger tides.
Now, I had every intention of catching a good old American blockbuster (starring UK actors) this weekend. However, since I couldn’t find anyone in my own age group to go watch X-Men with me, I had to see the small weekend opening squarely targeted towards the indie film crowd: Beginners. Fortunately and predictably, any number of my pals agreed to catch this particular Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent film with me ASAP. Turns out? My friends were also spot-on with this choice because the thing is absolutely terrific. Not feel good, rom-com, or triumphant journey-style terrific, but subtle and gorgeous and really-makes-you-think terrific. It’s a great story about several people reinventing themselves after years of being someone else on this earth – and even though it’s still in limited release, if you can find it you will not be disappointed. Here’s the setup: Hal (Plummer) is father to Oliver (McGregor) and after 45 years of marriage to Oliver’s mother he is widowed, whereupon he announces to his son that he’s actually gay with a much younger BF AND that he has terminal cancer. Doesn’t sound too promising or upbeat, does it? Pay no attention to these downer-sounding facts, though, because the movie is absolutely superb. Right when all of this is happening, Oliver meets Anna, played by the stratospherically beautiful Melanie Laurent (fromInglourious Basterds) and they fall for one another in that awkward/hilarious/tentative way that damaged people in crisis do. Yet unlike so many other movie pairings, this one feels genuinely nuanced and complicated – and therefore real. The film cuts back and forth between Oliver with his dad and Oliver with Anna (who happens to be a French actress living in temporarily in a hotel). Plus there is a dog – a Jack Russell Terrier Oliver inherits from his father – who’s every bit as legitimate and as transfixing as any of the movie’s other characters. Nor is this because I am a dog person, or even a Jack Russell person – it’s because the dog has a major role in the film. He may just transfix you too.
Based on the writer/director’s own life, Beginners boasts humor, imagery and top-notch acting that will – I am sure – keep it very alive in voter’s minds come awards season. So if you want a little insider info before all the buzzards start buzzing about this or that “gem”, go see this so you can trump them at their own game.
1) Angels & Demons
2) Moulin Rouge
3) Star Wars