Grae Drake
Beginners Review

Grae's Rating:


A great case for accepting who you really are.

Who's In It: Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic, Kai Lennox

The Basics: Oliver (McGregor) learns after his mother's death that his 75-year-old father Hal (Plummer) has terminal cancer and is a homosexual. Which is more shocking? This movie skips forward and back in time as he sorts through his emotions alongside his father's dog Arthur and new love interest Anna (Laurent). Come to think of it, a conventional summary of the film makes it sound like a real bummer, but it isn't.

What's The Deal: This movie is so chock full of honest, believable, gripping emotion that it would appear as though director/writer Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) has the resume of a seasoned professional. This isn't quite the case, which makes it that much more exciting. Placed in the hands of marvelous, charismatic actors like McGregor and Plummer, this script really came to life. The film is as quiet as Oliver's creaky wood-floored apartment, but filled to the brim with relatability and good laughs (which is important when you're dealing with a potentially thorny issue like sexuality). There's no preaching, just lots of love.

Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?: I love the character of Oliver. McGregor is a graphic artist trying to exorcise pain through his work, and it's not going well. Like the rest of the film, it's treated with a gentle hand and allowed to be funny instead of upsetting. McGregor is the perfect actor to breathe life into a character who has a calm center and finds himself subtly reeling from the blows life has dealt him. His humor and compassion burn bright, and the way he deals with life makes me wish I was more like him when the chips are down.

Ah, L'amour: This movie is all about relationships--romantic, familial, friendly, and even between man and man's best friend. All of them run simultaneously with each other, making human beings appear complex and beautiful (which is a nice departure from the typical stereotypes and easy answers we get from most scripts). Everyone in the film is kind of clueless but doing their best, which is charming to watch. Anna and Oliver's starts and stops are every bit as sweet and familiar as Hal and Andy's, and the film benefits from having a fractured narrative. We never spend quite enough time anywhere to get bored or for them to belabor the point. It was a great choice for this film because it really livened it up and separated it from the pack.

The Real Triumphs: I love this movie because it is about the courage it takes to be who you are, regardless of the consequences--like when Christopher Plummer, as a septuagenarian, ventures out into an unknown realm and finally finds himself fully expressed and accepting of who he is. I don't know many people who would roll up their sleeves that late in life and take that chance, and he made a great case for it. Another high point of the film, by the way, is Arthur the dog. He has a sparkling personality and gives the film that little boost it needs to stay funny and strange--just like life.


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