Rated R 104 min. 2011

Director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) plumbed some of the reserve and mystery of his own father when he undertook the script for his engaging new film Beginners. When the California artist and director’s widowed father was 75, he revealed that he was gay. Paul Mills then embarked on a voyage of self-discovery chronicled in the film’s altered-but-true version of the Mills’ family drama. In Beginners, Christopher Plummer is an acerbic, razor-sharp museum curator who reveals a tender, vulnerable side as he revels in his discovery of gay life. In a charming role reversal, Hal Fields (Plummer) becomes the tentative teenager dipping his toes in sexual experimentation and romantic infatuation, while his son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) is the wise, old sage offering insight into the semiotics of rainbow flags. A lyrical and time-tripping drama, Beginners skips back and forth through the years to Oliver as a child, as a grown man helping his father grapple with the cancer that fells him a few short years after he comes out of the closet, and to the present as Oliver contends with his own romantic life post-mom and dad. When the film opens, Oliver, in a serious funk, attends a costume party dressed as Sigmund Freud. There, he beguiles pretty French actress Anna (Inglourious Basterds’ Mélanie Laurent), and the couple begin a hot-and-cold romance complicated by both of their relationships with their fathers and a sense of trepidation about love in general. The film manages to charm despite a tendency toward art-house cuddliness. Much of its integrity is due to Plummer and McGregor, who have a chemistry and a depth that lends real validity to their characters’ complicated relationship.

Film Credits

Official Site:

Director: Mike Mills

Writer: Mike Mills

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Mélanie Laurent, Christopher Plummer, Goran Visnjic, Bill Oberst Jr., Mary Page Keller, China Shavers, Kai Lennox, Jodi Long and Catherine McGoohan

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