Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Beginners (2010): Realistic and Well-Acted but Underwhelming

I often complain about certain movies not being believable or characters' behavior not being adequate and realistic enough. Usually, I dislike them partially or entirely. And now, here Beginners is. It's completely believable. It's acted out quite well. Even the not so common events portrayed in the movie seem absolutely possible. And despite all of these the movie is somehow boring and not fully entertaining. Maybe its total realism makes it less cinema friendly and at the end less involving. Beginners is good on its own yet it failed to absorb me.

Beginners is about Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor), a young man who after losing his mother is shocked by his father's announcement that he is gay. Father Hal Fields (Christopher Plummer) is also diagnosed with cancer and dies after a few years leaving Oliver sad and confused about love and life. Oliver often thinks about his father's last years and his happy relationship with considerably younger male lover Andy (Goran Visnjic). He also thinks about his early life with his queer mother and her marriage with his father. These thoughts determine his uncertainty in his own relationships with women. One day he meets Anna (Mélanie Laurent), a French actress, which has also unstable former love life. Both of them like each other but love is not enough to keep them together. They have to deal with their fears and find hope and inspiration in order to end up in a successful relationship this time.

The story of Beginners may seem more interesting as I write about it than it actually is while you are watching the film. There are not any substantial twists. You know from the very beginning that the father will die and that he is gay. Whether Anna and Oliver will end up together or not does not really matter. So, the interesting stuff that has to capture your attention should be hidden in the particular scenes. And there are really some interesting moments but as a whole they are not enough to make for a captivating movie. The characters of Andy and the mother (Mary Page Keller) are in a way fascinating but they are not among the ones having the most screen presence.

Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor perform well. And as I've said everything you see in Beginners is feasible although not everyone in real life is gay and it's even rare a 75-year-old man to find an attractive young male lover. Being believable is not enough though and boredom is not an alien to this film. Personally, I do not find the usage of stills from particular years in the movie to be an effective presentation device either. On a positive note, I think to employ a character of an elderly father revealing himself as gay and achieving happiness at the decline of his life is a good idea when seen as an inspiration to his son.

So, Beginners offers a real life story, good acting and some colorful characters. It's hardly a comedy but you can smile a few times. What the movie doesn't offer is real involvement and caring for the characters. I find it underwhelming and remotely entertaining. Watching Beginners once is not a complete waste of time but it is not a fully rewarding experience either.


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