Movie review of Mike Mills' Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Mélanie Laurent
Mike Mills looks to his own family for a beautiful father-son tale.
The artfulness of Mike Mills includes cool use of music, bold and colorful graphic design and flashy music videos, short films and features Thumbsucker (2005) and Does Your Soul Have A Cold? (2007).
Mills’ artwork is somewhat cheeky, confident and fun. What he accomplishes with Beginners, his first feature-length drama since Thumbsucker, is to put more “real” into his visual art; to emphasize the storytelling as much as the beautiful set design, wardrobes and cinematography. Beginners; expanding to cinemas throughout June from Focus Features, is Mill’s best feature yet because its drama and performances are equal to its visual art. The fact that the story behind Beginners is based on Mills’ own family may have something to do with its emotional power.
Hal Fields (Christopher Plummer) is a Los Angeles museum administrator who after his longtime wife passes at age 75 and announces to his 38- year-old son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) that he's gay and finally coming out to his friends.
Oliver struggles to accept his father’s new life including a younger boyfriend named Andy (Goran Visnjic). But the bigger shock for Oliver is learning that his father has cancer. After recently losing his mother and coming to terms with his father’s new lifestyle, Oliver comes to realize he may soon be alone.
Just when he needs a companion most, Oliver meets a beautiful French actress, Anna (Mélanie Laurent) at a party. They connect instantly but Oliver has a way of sabotaging relationships — even ones that are a perfect fit.
Veteran actor Christopher Plummer has a lifetime of standout performances both on-screen and on-stage and he continues to be as lively as ever. Following his bold turns as Tolstoy in The Last Station and the mysterious traveling magician in Terry Gilliam's wonderful fantasy The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Plummer delivers a performance that’s grounded, authentic and heartfelt.
Plummer makes Hal the soul of Beginners, the force that shows his somewhat emotionally adrift the importance of living honestly.
Ewan McGregor connects powerfully together and perhaps the best compliment one can say is that he and Plummer feel like a father and a son. Most filmmakers look to McGregor for heightened energy and comic effects but Mills shows his tender side.
Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) and Goran Visnjic (ER) provide strong support but Beginners soars on the work of McGregor and Plummer.
Actually, it’s just as accurate to say that the wonderful Beginners soars on the work of Mike Mills.
All the stylish visual touches fans expect from Mills are in Beginners including Hal's Jack Russell terrier Arthur talking via subtitles and Oliver's beautiful graphic design work.
Mills and editor Olivier Bugge Coutté make artful use of the film's unique structure of multiple flashbacks.
Working with cameraman Kasper Tuxen, who shot the stunning 3 Backyards, Mills shows Los Angeles at its stunning best. Costume designer Jennifer Johnson helps complete the stylish package with a hip wardrobe for Hal, Oliver and Anna.
Still, beautiful art is a given with Mills. Beginners is Mills’ most complete work to date because channels his own family experiences into a screenplay and movie about children and parents, life and death, unexpected surprises and the chance for love to make all things right.
Mike Mills is one of a kind and without a doubt his family story is unique. Thanks to his talents as a storyteller, in to addition to his artfulness, Beginners is a movie for all.
Movie details, trailers, clips, movie posters and images for Beginners:
Distributor: Focus Features
Director: Mike Mills
Scriptwriter: Mike Mills
Cinematographer: Kasper Tuxen
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic Production Designer: Shane Valentino Costume Designer: Jennifer Johnson Music Supervisor: Roger Neill, Dave Palmer, Brian Reitzell
Editor: Olivier Bugge Coutté
Running Time: 104 minutes
Producers: Olympus Pictures, Parts & Labor
Rating: Rated R
Release Date: June 3, 2011