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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Feb 4: Beginners


Feb 4: Beginners

"A young man is rocked by two announcements from his elderly father: that he has terminal cancer, and that he has a young male lover."

   Beginners is the rare kind of film that hits on every emotion. It's funny, original, sad, uplifting, honest and so much more. The humor is off beat, but hilarious, and it contrasts very well with some rather depressing subject matter. The film's style is also very unique, and the way the story is presented is fresh. Beginners jumps around in time, from when Oliver (Ewan McGregor) is a boy, to the time spent with his father after he comes out as gay, to the time after his dad dies, and Oliver is finding love for himself. Because each "era", if you will, as a different feel and emotion, the breaking up of each helps keep Beginners from going off the deep end of depression. 

Even floaties couldn't save you from this kind of sadness. 

   The acting in Beginners is perfect, and each character is cast as though the role was made for him or her. Christopher Plummer, who has earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance, is marvelous as Oliver's dad Hal, and completely deserves the recognition. His performance is so natural and genuine that you really want to celebrate life with him. Plummer and McGregor's relationship and chemistry is superb. You can really believe they are father and son. Melanie Laurent, who plays Oliver's new found love, is gorgeous and you can't help but want the two of them to live happily ever after. I don't know if it's great casting around him, but it seems Ewan McGregor has perfect chemistry with everyone he works with. 

He's your best friend, your son, your father, your lover, your rival, your teacher. 

   Another highlight of Beginners is Arthur, the Jack Russell terrier who is owned by Hal, then later by Oliver. Call me a softy but every time I see a terrier in a movie or TV show, I want  it immediately (from Frasier to even My Dog Skip). Of course, only if it's that exact terrier on the screen that I get. Throughout the course of the movie, Oliver actually learns to talk with Arthur, and subtitles even appear, giving him an even greater presence. 


   Overall, Beginners is a great film that shows you that there's more to life than just day to day routines and that happiness is closer than we think. It could be something we find in each other, an animal, nature, art, or even in vandalizing buildings with historically significant graffiti. Beginners is a simple story, with a lot of heart that goes a long way. It's worthy of a viewing, multiple times, and should be a film that everyone sees. 

The Good:
beautiful story, great script, superb acting, incredible score... all with a heaping jumble of emotion
The Bad:
Knowing a large part of it is autobiographical for the director Mike Mills, and knowing he had to go through the tragic, untimely loss of his father
The Ugly:
realizing that nothing lasts forever and that we need to hold onto what we have before it's gone

Overall: 8.9/10

Best Quote:
Oliver: "You re-wrote Jesus' death?" 
Hal: "It was so violent, we need new stories." 

Recommended Related Awesome:
Cashback- a British film no one has seen, but needs to, as well as owned and loved
Darjeeling Limited- India, brothers... beautifully shot by the always wonderful Wes Anderson 
Submarine- similar narration style, about a young boy and his quest for love

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