Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Beginners

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language and some sexual content
Profanity:Very strong language
Nudity/Sex:Gay and straight sexual references and situations
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking, characters get tipsy
Violence/Scariness:Very sad death from cancer, loss of parents, grief
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:June 10, 2011

Oliver (Ewan McGregor) is engaged in the saddest of tasks, clearing out his late father’s home, choosing what to take, what to give away, what no one will want.  He brings his father’s dog home with him, giving him a tour.  “This is the bathroom,” he says.  “This is the dining room, where people come and eat sometimes.”  But it is clear that no one comes to eat there.  Oliver, a graphic designer, is a loner and in his grief he is even more isolated from the rest of the world.

Writer-director Mike Mills (“Thumbsucker”), a graphic designer himself, based this film on his own experience.   His father came out at age 74 for the first time and lived an enthusiastic and joyous life as a gay man until he died.  He tells the story impressionistically, going back and forth between Oliver’s quiet, if sometimes conflicted, support of his father’s new experiences and relationships and then his illness and months after his father’s death, when he meets an actress (Melanie Laurant of “Inglourious Basterds” and “The Concert”), falls for her, and struggles to overcome his sense of loss and learn from his father’s ability to give himself wholeheartedly to a relationship.  There are flashbacks, too, showing us Oliver’s spirited if complicated mother (the superb Mary Page Keller), who was married to his father for 44 years.  And Oliver mingles in details of history and even cosmology as he tells us what happened.  It works beautifully.  Mills tells the story with delicacy and tenderness — and with humor.  The best lines are given to the dog.

Christopher Plummer is outstanding as Oliver’s father Hal, who has no regrets about his marriage but is determined to make up for the time he could not be fully himself.  He calls Oliver in the middle of the night to ask what kind of music he heard in a club.  “House music,” he repeats, writing it down, to make sure he knows how to ask for it the next time.  He has gay pride meetings in his home.  He falls in love with a man and invites him to move in, understanding that his new lover will not be monogamous.  Oliver’s reaction is mixed admiration, envy, and a kind of sibling rivalry, and McGregor is an understated marvel in showing us all of that and more, without a word.

After Hal’s death, Oliver goes to a costume party, dressed as Freud.  He meets Anna, who has laryngitis, and communicates only through writing.  A romance begins, but Oliver will have to allow himself to take the risk of loving her, and sharing himself.  At work, even though he knows the client who just wants an album cover will hate it, he has insisted on submitting a series of drawings about the history of sadness.  Can he make sense of his own history of sadness?

Tenderly told and exquisitely performed, this is a gentle wonder, with characters we root for and emotions we believe in.

 

 

 

 

Parents should know that this is the fact-based story of a 74-year-old man who comes out following the death of his wife and then is enthusiastically involved in the gay community until he becomes terminally ill; the film deals with issues of grief and loss and has strong and explicit language and sexual references, non-explicit situations and some drinking.

Family discussion: What can you tell about Oliver from his relationship with the dog?  From his artwork?  Why is this story told in non-linear fashion and what do the historical references add?  What was hardest for Oliver to accept from his father?

If you like this, try: “Nothing in Common” with Tom Hanks

 



Previous Posts

Actors Of Color Discuss Racial Stereotypes In Hollywood
Film Courage produced this excellent and very compelling film with actors of color talking about the challenges they face in Hollywood. If we did a better job of representing diversity in film, we would not just tell better stories and tell stories better, we would make better progress toward under

posted 8:00:49am Dec. 19, 2014 | read full post »

Annie
The story of the plucky little Depression-era orphan with the curly red hair has been not just re-booted but re-imagined into the world of rent-a-bikes, viral videos, DNA tests, YOLO, corpora

posted 5:59:13pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Fans of the first two "Night at the Museum" films will like this one because it is pretty much the same film. They go to another museum, this time the British Museum in London, and the exhibi

posted 5:23:46pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Listen to People's Lives: David Plotz's Working Podcast
Former Slate editor David Plotz, now at Atlas Obscura, says that he is a big fan of Studs Terkel's classic book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. He has paid tribute to that great work in the best possible way, by updating it with his podcast seri

posted 3:59:23pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Little Orphan Annie: From Comic Strip to Radio, Broadway, Television, and Two Movies
The spunky little girl with the curly red hair and a dog named Sandy began as Little Orphan Annie in 1924, created by Harold Gray.  Her pluck, self-sufficiency, and resilience cau

posted 8:00:48am Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.