I have had a crush on Christopher Plummer since he played Captain Von Trapp in”The Sound Of Music”. There is something very gentle and loving about his presence that makes me feel my heart’s wishes.
So I had a little trepidation about seeing “Beginners”. Dying? Gay? My Canadian hero? Not possible! Not even in a movie.
“Beginners” is a terrific albeit painful movie about death and following your dreams. For me, it was a little too raw. I have experienced too much death of those closest to me in the last three years. The early scenes – emptying out the house and finding private papers – heck, these were just a tad hard to handle. I go to movies to forget this stuff.
I needed to rely on my much younger companion to get a sense of this. It’s way too close to home for me. But I didn’t stop laughing all the way through as the wry humour truly engaged all my senses.
It’s different to other movies. It makes you use your brain and heart and forces you to feel and think deeply. Director and writer Mike Mills based this on the true story of his mother and father and it all feels very real.
The plot is that Hal (Plummer) has died, leaving a bereft son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and an equally bereft Jack Russell dog. The scenes of emptying out the pills and the clothes hit a particularly visceral nerve.
Oliver goes to a party, dressed as Freud and meets Anna (Melanie Laurent who was the best thing about “Inglorious Bastards”). Very quickly, Oliver realises he has some blocks about being close to anyone.
We go back in time. Mary Page Keller is terrific as Oliver’s mother, Georgia, gurning for the camera as she mimics a modern art installation and leaning over the guide’s shoulder at another exhibition. Both parents are intellectuals. That speaks to me.
There is a glorious love of books evident in this. After Georgia dies, Hal announces he is gay and Oliver struggles to understand this, given the long marriage of his parents. Hal buys books, becomes a gay activist and falls in love with Andy (ER’s Goran Visnjic, who has eaten too many pies since his glory days).
“The Joy Of Sex” and Liv Ullmann’s “Changing” both feature here, showing the passion at the centre of this movie. The colours and graphics and the use of the original “Harvey Milk” movie will move you deeply. whether you are gay or straight.
So. all in all, I loved it, even though I found it hard to watch. It’s a brilliant movie that affects you profoundly.
Although I love animals – my cat is on my lap as I write – I fear that the “human feelings” ascribed to the dog here may muddy the emotional water for some.
Seeing it at the beautiful Notting Hill Gate Picturehouse was a rare treat, given the velvet seats and beautiful environment. It is lovely to be so comfortable in a cinema. The audience loved this film.
Should you see it? If you can handle the raw emotions here, yes. If not, you will miss a great treat.