While in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending an advance screening of Beginners, directed by Mike Mills and starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Mélanie Laurent. Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers in here … everything I mention is explained within the first few minutes of the movie. The film follows the life of Oliver (McGregor) after two fairly large life occurrences, the death of his elderly (and relatively fresh out of the closet) father (Plummer) and his meeting a mysterious ingénue (Laurent) at a costume party (if you can identify the psychology joke in that scene, you’re my new best friend). Dealing with budding romance as well as grieving the loss of his gay widower father, Oliver is dealing with a whirlwind of conflicting emotions.
The movie is certainly not a lighthearted feel-good 102 minutes, but it’s what I like to call a ‘thinky’ movie. You need to pay attention to the interactions, which are nuanced in the small moments. The film is told in a mixture of real-time events and flashbacks. A highlight for myself was the flashbacks to Oliver’s childhood where his relationship with his left of center mother (Mary Page Keller) is revealed. I thought the acting in those scenes was particularly well done, as well as the development of the characters themselves.
My only real issue with the film was the pacing, I felt that the plot was a little slow to develop, but as with all character movies, that’s often the case (have you ever seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s? That movie takes FOREVER for anything to happen, and it’s a classic now). I wouldn’t recommend this as a first date film (mostly because of the pacing), save it for when you know your date a little better. But if you’re trying to impress your date with how much indy street cred you have to even know about this movie (now playing in select theaters) then you go right ahead!