|Upcoming movie, “Beginners,” is Mike Mills’ first dramatic feature since “Thumbsucker” in 2005. He manages to mix family drama and understated comedy and his special brand of artfulness in this new movie. Christopher Plummer plays Hal Fields, a 75 year old who has lost his wife and then tells his adult son, played by Ewan McGregor, that he’s ready to come out of the closet and begin living as a gay man. Just about the time that Ewan has digested the idea that his father is not only out of the closet but has a much younger lover, played by Goran Visnjic, he also learns that his father has cancer. Anna, played by Melanie Laurent, an attractive French actress Oliver meets at a costume party, helps 38 year old Oliver come to terms with the changes in his life. Unfortunately, Oliver is simply not adept at relationships.
Movie picture “Beginners” was picked up by Focus Features at the Toronto Film Festival for release in June 2011 at the same time they picked up “The Kids Are All Right” to release in June 2010. Movie forums say that “Beginners” is not going to be as successful as “The Kids Are All Right” which brought in $20M. It just doesn’t have as friendly a trailer or as many celebrity leading roles. However it’s getting good reviews, and is favored by the gay community so it may do better than “Thumbsucker” which brought in $1.3M. It will probably be big in art houses this summer.
For Mills this is a semi-autobiographical film. He based it on his experiences with his own father who also came out at 75. He has made “Beginners” into a sweet family story. Although the story is unusual, Mills has managed to make it very easy to relate to. Not only does it show that an adult can finally get to really know his elderly parent but that sometimes the bittersweet truth is that the relationship may be over just as it peaks.
Christopher Plummer is excellent in his role as Hal Fields – a man at the end of his life who commits himself to living honestly for the first time. His last roles were as Tolstoy in “The Last Station” and he starred in “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” as well.
Ewan McGregor is wonderful as this serious role as the crushed son. He has excellent chemistry with Plummer and their scenes together are honest and tender. Melanie Laurent is a strong supporting actress and Goran Visnjic is also terrific in his role as Plummer’s much younger boyfriend.
Mills adds superb little touches like subtitles so that Hal’s Jack Russell can communicate with Oliver. Oliver’s wonderful graphic design work reflects the fact that graphic design is one of talented Mills’ other professions.
Cameraman Kasper Tuxen and Mills do use Los Angeles as a stunning backdrop for the film. Olivier Bugge Coutte’ is clever with the ideas of lots of flashbacks and parallel stories.
“Beginners” is the third feature film by Mills. He also directed “Thumbsucker” and “Does Your Soul Have a Cold?”
Mills is an artist, like David Lynch and Anton Corijn, and also does movies. “Beginners” proves that Mills is an excellent storyteller and great with melodrama as well.
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