One of the great things about being in Los Angeles is that I’ve started doing things I would never, ever have done otherwise. Like climbing a mountain, or eating meat. But I’ve also started seeing films that were never high on my list of must-sees for this summer.
So, last night I went to see Beginners. I had heard pretty good things about it from people, but had no real expectations.
It is not only one of the best films I’ve seen this year, but possibly in my entire life.
This comedy-drama follows 38-year-old Oliver (played brilliantly by Ewan McGregor and his faux American accent that I find oh-so attractive), his childhood relationship with his mother (Mary Paige Keller), his new relationship with the fun and unpredictable Anna (Mélanie Laurent), and his relationship with his terminally ill, homosexual father Hal. Oliver meets Anna only months after his father died (but not before coming out to him).
I know that synopsis may seem convoluted, but the film does a great job of telling a near stream-of-consciousness story, without it being horribly confusing. Normally, I hate stream-of-consciousness stories. But Beginners was something different.
The script itself was great, but what really brought it alive for me was the acting. I do tend to watch more comedies or sci-fi than anything else, which don’t get me wrong can have great acting. But I think dramedies often feature the best actors, because it can be difficult to make an audience want to laugh and cry, sometimes in the same scene. Every scene with every actor (including Goran Visnjic, who plays Andy, Hal’s lover AND Arthur, Hal then Oliver’s dog) feels so incredibly real, like I’m peering into the lives of other people.
That sounds pretentious, I’m aware of that. And yes, I’m sure some critics would say that stylistically, this film kind of jumps around a bit. Fair enough. I liked that.
But I just don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie that’s made me really feel so much in under two hours, whether it’s happy, sad, contemplative or anything. It’s sweet and hopeful and weird and amazing. And I think that means something.
Maybe it means I should just watch more experimental art dramas. It probably does.
Nevertheless, Beginners is one of my new favorite films. It’s about finding love and keeping love and, basically, being a beginner at it. I think that’s pretty universal.