Beginners – directed by Mike Mills. Romantic Drama. A loser in love heads for the cliff in his latest and last romance, but will he make it? Color 2011.
* * * * *
Ewan McGregor appears to be an actor without temperament or guts. He is an actor who presents a blank cutout, as though male audiences are supposed to fit themselves into his shoes and female audiences are supposed to project their ideal male upon him. I guess. He leaves me cold. He can come through at essential moments such as the one when his father tells him that his mother knew he was gay before she married him, but said she could fix it. Then we get a readable response, one which can register upon McGregor’s features which are made limited by the perpetual influence of scowl line between his brows and the cruel error of being in half beard. But because of McGregor’s lack of affect, Melanie Laurent, an actress who unlike him presents very well, is acting in response not to him but to the dialogue. And the camera remains largely on her as she carries the various fluxes of the tale between them, carries them ably and with charm. Fortunately the dialogue is brilliant. And the tale is wonderful. Alfred Hitchcock is not a great director, but he had something which greater directors rarely have: the ability to cast a spell. And so does the director/writer of this film, whose work here is unusual, keen, and beguiling. He brings to us a film remarkable in all departments, the music, the photography by Kasper Tuxen, the editing by Olivier Bugge Coutte, and by all the actors. Christopher Plummer seems finally to be dropping his Shakespearean rodomontade and to be learning screen acting, for he is perfectly modulated in the role of the father who, finding himself a widower at 74, decides to explore his gay nature. Withal, Plummer’s wife is played with acute and stunning wit and imagination by Mary Page Keller. Every time she appears on the screen you welcome her. She brings us McGregor’s formative love as a boy of eleven. All this is interleaved with the beginning of his romance twenty five years later with a woman much resembling what Mary Page Keller has generously given us. I loved this film, I loved its writing, and because of that I should not tell any more, except permit me to spoil the ending. It ends with these two lines of dialogue: “I don’t know,” “How does that work?”