3 Films a Week (3) : Beginners
I HAVE been watching 3 Films a Week… But i should really have called this 3 Reviews a Week, as that’s where the challenge lies… Actually. Writing. About. The. Films.
But it’s never too late, as Christopher Plummer charmingly demonstrates in…
BEGINNERS (Mike Mills, 2011)
I think that segway was really classily done, but I’m not going to make a big deal of it or anything.
This film was indie-quirky. That’s for sure. You could tell it was going to be indie-quirky from the trailer. I was warned by various reviewers and friends that it was so indie-quirky it hurts. So I didn’t go see it in the cinema.
But actually, I found all the indie-quirks unique, creative, pleasing, exciting, hey, maybe inspiring. The big gestures like the repeated sequences of photos showing what life ‘looked like’ at the time of different characters’ formative years (‘this is what the president looked like, this is what stars looked like, this is what happy looked like’) and the subtitled pet dog (played by COSMO, the forgotten canine star of this year) were fun but I can see why they would grate on some people as being too affected and showy. But where the quirkiness really worked was in the details of the characters’ lives… McGregor and his mother’s games involving miming shoot-outs and spontaneous, rambling driving trips (‘you point, I’ll drive’), Plummer’s character’s younger gay lover’s habit of capturing bugs from the garden in his hands and revealing them to him, except sometimes, the hands are empty!
I enjoyed these little acts of defiance against the mundane-ity of everyday life. I liked the message, that you may be trapped in a life you can’t quite work out how to change, and it may take a long, long time before you find a route out, but these little games, little moments of self-expression and creativity, are what keep you sane and ready for when the chance arrives to be something bigger and better.
Christopher Plummer is just effortlessly wonderful, and his plot-thread provides all of the film’s most moving moments.
The romance between McGregor and Melanie Laurent is flawed, certainly - the writing is a little shallow, the ‘obstacles’ a little forced, the arcs a little vague. BUT I still found their courtship entertaining to watch, and their chemistry was very delicate, and vulnerable, and sweet. I think they both did very well, Laurent in particular, as on paper she was little more than a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
Addendum: Is Ewan McGregor going on a little life-affirming, quirky romance-movie odyssey? First this, then ‘Perfect Sense’, and soon, ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’. I could compare it to ‘Brassed Off’, ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ and ‘Little Voice’ in the 90s I suppose. (Okay, Brassed Off isn’t that life affirming). Anywho, I approve (well, we’ll see about the salmon fishing).
PPS: I will include some kind of synopsis thingy in future. I hate them so much though. I always skip past them when i read reviews because, like, who doesn’t already know the plot of a film they’re reading a review of?