Wednesday, 27 July 2011

REVIEW: The Beginners

Dir.:Mike Mills
With: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent & Cosmo, the dog

My goodness me. I just realised that my student card is expiring in three days! Looks like I’ll be moving into the cinema until Monday to really relish saving those two extra pounds, or whatever it is these days, on cinema tickets. On top of that, I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties in July (although I’ve had by far the most views this month, must be all down to the Harry Potter review), so I’ll try and get back into the swing of things. This might prove to be rather difficult to carry out since there isn’t much out there I’d like to see…again, all Potter’s fault.

I wasn’t really that interested in watching “The Beginners” until someone said that it was like the male version of “Amelie”. Being the gullible little girl that I sometimes am, I got rather excited. And you know what, it wasn’t bad at all, although “Amelie” it most certainly is not. The story goes thusly – Ewan McGregor plays a 38-year-old graphic designer from LA whose recently widowed father comes out to him. After embracing his new lifestyle, the father, wonderfully portrayed by Christopher Plummer, is diagnosed with stage-four cancer and eventually passes away. McGregor’s character tries to deal with his loss via reminiscing about his childhood and the conversations he used to have with his father. He also inherits his dog, a Jack Russel called Arthur and meets a French girl who he, unavoidably, falls for.

The film is your typical quirky romance/drama with some humour, slightly pretentious camerawork, offbeat relationships and a confused central character. The plot sags in the middle, like a rope bridge, and the work as a whole reminds me of a chick that almost got out of its eggshell but died, half concealed. It could have been so much more and tried to address many complex themes but failed to do so justly. It is needlessly long and suffers from the usual cliché – this being a white American dude rescued by a tousled-haired French maiden (see “Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset” etc, etc, etc).   

What saves the movie is the well-chosen cast. Christopher Plummer shines as the elderly homosexual gentleman, who lead a pleasant enough life in the closet and finally decides that he owes himself some true happiness. His thirst for life at the age of 75 is really quite endearing despite its comedy value. Ewan McGregor is evidently very comfortable in his role – sensitive, artistic soul who suffers from a prolonged solitude and is bound to make himself unhappy. His constant lack of initiative and the tiresome search for the cause of his predicament is slightly irritating, to be perfectly honest. You almost want to shake him and scream “WAKE UP!” But, once again, McGregor is good at playing a harmless, self-reflecting fool.

The French actress, Melanie Laurent, is nice to look at but she does not create anything out of the ordinary and sticks to the safest stereotype of what a free-spirited French girl must be like. Will it work out between the recently bereaved designer and her? It’s for you to find out :-)

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