Beginners (2010)


The real problem with this film is that it is instantly forgettable. There are great actors involved in Beginners, but even they couldn’t save me from feeling very let down after watching this. The story is fine, acting is good. It is just not memorable at all. There are no standout performances and the story is not interesting enough for me to be fully invested in the movie.

Ewan McGregor plays Oliver Fields, a young man whose father has just passed away. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Oliver’s dad (Christopher Plummer) came out as gay not long after his wife died. His dad enters into the gay community and finds love with a man. Oliver and his dad become closer as a result. The film is mostly about Oliver coming to terms with his dad’s admission and a new relationship Oliver has entered into with the free spirited Anna (Melanie Laurent).

I really wanted to see more of Oliver’s relationship with his dad, but Beginners spends too much time focused on his new romance with Anna. To be honest, I didn’t really care about their story. A boy/girl romance is something that has been done to death, and this movie does not offer anything new to the subject. Seeing a son accept his gay dad’s new lifestyle is where this film could have really shined, and I do wish that more time had been devoted to that relationship. Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor have terrific chemistry. Plummer even won an Oscar for his role in this film. I wanted to see more of them, but every time their story gets interesting, the audience is shipped back to present day to show Oliver pining over his new French lover.

But Beginners‘ biggest problem is it left me feeling nothing. I didn’t really care about the characters. And even only a few weeks after watching it, I can’t really tell you anything remarkable about it. Instantly forgettable is perhaps the best descriptor I can give for this film. It focuses on all the wrong things and ignores the father/son relationship that should be its strength.

This indie flick adds little new or fresh aspects to the drama/romance genre, despite a great cast. Too much time is devoted to a one dimensional traditional romance when the real story should be about Oliver and his dad.

Rating: C-

Beginners is a movie I really, really wanted to like. The trailer immediately drew me in, what with Ewan McGregor’s scruffy smile, a few humorous scenes featuring Christopher Plummer, and a cute Jack Russel Terrier. Plummer’s Academy Award nomination and subsequent win peaked my interest even further. When the DVD arrived in Ben’s monthly Amazon order, I was excited to finally watch it. So why do I feel so underwhelmed?

Beginners is a good film, but I struggled to stay engaged while watching it. McGregor stars as Oliver, a man still mourning the death of his father (Plummer) when he meets Anna (Mélanie Laurent), a French actress. The story is told in a series of flashbacks showing Oliver’s relationship with his father after his mother’s death. Oliver decides to pursue a romance with Anna, inspired by his father’s late in life coming out and finding love as a gay man.

Plummer’s Oscar win was much deserved (even if it did mean Jonah Hill missed out for his performance in Moneyball), and was the highlight of the film. His scenes range from humorous (questioning to his son about things like “house music”) to more touching moments as the two grow closer. The chemistry between Plummer and McGregor is wonderful, and I love the on-screen moments these two share.

The chemistry between McGregor and Laurent is less evident. I was much more engaged in the father-son relationship than in the romantic one blossoming between Oliver and Anna. Their scenes left me bored and wondering when we’d see another pre-Anna flashback.

Beginners is a quiet rom-com (more of a romantic drama, really), that is really let down by the romance  aspect. The family story is much more compelling and fun to watch, but there’s far too little of it. This should have been a straight up comedy-drama, removing the romantic plot all together.

Rating: B

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