Longtime readers know how I feel about teh gay, at least as it appertains to indie cinema, and I didn’t exactly stampede to see Beginners, the new(ish) movie with Christopher Plummer and—uh, what’s his name. That guy who did the kick-ass Alec Guiness impression in the Star Wars prequels. Not Ethan Hawke…Ewan MacGregor! That’s the guy.
Sorry. I’m getting older. The names aren’t coming as fast as they used to.
Anyway, the story is about Oliver (MacGregor), a wan sort of graphic artist, whose mom has just died. His 76-year-old father, Hal (Plummer) has since come out of the closet and devoted his last years to pursuing his sexuality. Also, Hal has terminal cancer.
The story takes place along three timelines: One in the late ‘50s, where we meet Hal’s mom, Georgia (played by the lovely Mary Page Keller, best known to me as the star of the early Fox sitcom “Duet”, who’s actually a little too old to be playing a mom in the ’50s, but I didn’t mind), one from 2003 showcasing Hal’s life after Georgia dies, and one from 2006 where Oliver tries to sort out his head after Hal dies, and make a relationship with the beautiful Anna (Mélanie Laurent, of last years fun Franco-Russo flick The Concert).
Wow, does that read as awful as I think it does?
It’s really not. It’s actually a very enjoyable movie.
Yeah, Oliver’s a mope, but he’s sort of a whimsical mope. He loves his dad, and is supportive of him. A central player in this drama is Hal’s dog, who has occasional subtitles, which works better than you might think it would.
I guess what it comes down to is, none of the characters are bad guys, they’re just sort of befuddled. Hal is as unapologetic about his relationship with Georgia (who entered the relationship knowingly, if deluded) as he is about his 11th hour aggressive pursuit of homosexuality. Oliver and Anna struggle along, being sort of weird, hurting each other by sheer emotional awkwardness.
It wasn’t boring. You’re rooting for everyone.
The movie largely stays away from being glib or simplistic, although I had a little trouble with the central premise, which I took to be “I’m screwed up because my dad was gay and married to my mom."
But what do I know?
The key may be that The Boy enjoyed it, and that says something about a movie that features a fair amount of dudes kissing.
Anyway, if you up for a low key drama that’s not too heavy, and you’re not, you know, adverse to the dudes kissing thing, it’s a good bet.
(Also, if you’re a Christopher Plummer fan, check out The Man In The Chair.)