|Ewen is not paying attention to his Happiness lessons|
And this wise innocence informs the film, from its dark yellow palette, its Wes-Anderson-like narration, the heroine who threatens to go Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but is too smart for that pigeon-hole, even a very perceptive Jack Russell terrier, who acts as mute Greek chorus. There is a beautiful, simple clarity which drives the stark production design, the jump cuts which are surely written into the script, the rapid shifts of place and time. Although the texture is dense, each small piece of the mosaic is eminently clear and well-defined.
|Arthur does his best to see Oliver through.|
If you've heard of the film and not seen it, you probably heard of because Christopher Plummer won an Academy Award for playing a man who comes out at age 75. And he does it wonderfully and fully deserves prizes. But do not skip this because you think it is an old gay man movie and you've seen that one. This is not a movie about an old gay man, it is about a young sad man. But sad is not depressed. Sad is simply a color in the rainbow of emotions, one we must have in order for the other colors to make sense and maintain their relationship with each other. Sad is OK. The trick is to come through and come out the other end.
SPOILER ALERT: He does it. He gets through. It doesn't end with a music montage and everyone splashing in the ocean, but happiness is possible.
This post has more outright expression of opinion than I like, but simply put, I found Beginners one of the most elegant, poetic and overlooked movies of 2011. There is a lot more to see here than Plummer's rightly-celebrated turn, including Melanie Laurent's mountains of charm and Goran Visnjic's enchanting child-man as Plummer's lover, the compact of secret playfulness between young Oliver and his bemused mother, well-limned by Mary Page Keller -- these are all recognizable human beings, rare creatures in contemporary film. But most of all, there is the emergence of Mike Mills as an authorial voice in film whose future work I, for one, intend to follow.