Absolute Beginners

I am writing this review purely so that I can spend time looking for pictures of Ewan from the movie.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time looking forward to Beginners.  Unlike every other movie I’ve looked forward to in recent memory, it did not leave me disappointed.  It absolutely justified my insistence on seeing it the very first day and ditching BW so that I could see it at one of the very first showings of the very first day.  (OCD + movie fandom.  It’s not pretty.)

That said, Beginners is not quite the movie I was expecting, nor what the trailers would lead you to think.

I thought it would be more of a light-hearted comedy.  Instead, it is a very quiet, thoughtful series of ruminations.  Much like watching a slideshow of the main character’s  (Oliver, as played by Parallel Universe Husband) memories;  the show unfolds at his pace.  We linger longer on the memories that matter most to him, even if they don’t always make sense to us.  We random glimpses of moments that seem out of context, but isn’t that how memories work?  But soon a narrative emerges, and if you just relax and let it play out you will be rewarded with that rarest of treats:  a movie that doesn’t TELL! EVERYTHING! through EXPOSITION! and OBVIOUS EDITING! and MUSIC CUES!

Beginners is a movie that shows.  The actors’ faces tell the story, and they are a great group of actors playing very human characters. Melanie Laurent’s ‘Anna’ teeters on the brink of manic-pixie-dreamgirlhood, but somehow skillfully avoids falling down that elevator shaft.  Christopher Plummer is masterful, I’ll be stunned if he doesn’t get a Best Supporting nod.  (He’s gay! AND dies of cancer!!)  Ewan is fantastic here.  I think his atonement for The Island and Angels & Demons is complete.

Further, he spends most of the movie looking pensive and a little sad in nice lighting.

Like that.  Reason enough to see the movie, why am I still typing this?  Do you need to be reminded that he talks to a little dog throughout?  Don’t you have a soul, or what?

Anyway, the only time that Beginners falters is when they step out of the narrative and show you Oliver’s (an artist/graphic designer, just like director Mike Mills, upon whom the character is based) drawings.  Those sequences start to feel like heavy-handed TELLING compared to the rest of the film, but I think they are forgivable because 1. the drawings are quite clever and 2. Beginners is a movie that takes place inside an artist’s head so it wouldn’t make sense if we didn’t see some of his art.

I know that Beginners is in quite limited release, but if it appears in your town, do go!  If not, add it to your Netflix queue immediately.  I think I’ve talked myself into seeing it again, anyone up for it?

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