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Beginners
DVD disk
11.15.2011 By: Mathew Plale
Beginners order download
Director:
Mike Mills

Actors:
Ewan McGregor
Christopher Plummer
Mélanie Laurent

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A 38-year-old man (McGregor) finds love with an aspiring actress (Laurent) while reflecting on his father (Plummer), who came out of the closet in the last years of his life.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Oliver’s most vivid memories of his parents together are of the kisses. Not on the lips like a loving couple. But of his father routinely pecking his mother’s head before he left for work.

He thinks of this often because he has just lost his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), to cancer. And he has come to realize that Hal did not dislike his mother (Mary Page Keller), but was gay. This piece of information, revealed when Hal was 75 and so close to death, doesn’t seem to bother Oliver (Ewan McGregor) so much as it does play a role in the distance he keeps himself from others. His deepest emotional connection at age 38 is with his Jack Russell terrier, Arthur, whose thoughts are subtitled for the audience. (This gag falls flat, though thankfully isn’t too recurrent.)

And then comes Anna (Mélanie Laurent), a beautiful and fragile French actress. Their first few encounters are so clever in the approach, with a laryngitis-stricken Anna communicating through a mixture of sign language and a small notebook. Here is a couple that may not be that fun to go out with, but they fit well with each other, and that’s good enough for this story.

Beginners was written, directed and lived by Mike Mills. But the movie is not therapy. That would imply negative feelings and resentment towards his father and how Mills himself turned out. No, Beginners is a confident and honest expression.

It is such an appropriate title, too. Beginners sees two men becoming satisfied with their lives and opening up for the first time in such a way they probably didn’t think they could at their ages. The lesson is that one should never give up on the chance to be happy.

It all sounds so mawkish and cliché. But Oliver, Hal and Anna are such relatable characters that, despite minor missteps in the script’s dialogue, are completely rounded humans. How rare that can be.
THE EXTRAS
Feature commentary with writer/director Mike Mills: Mills isn’t the most energetic speaker, but he’s still easy to listen to. From the start, Mills offers plenty of details on the making of Beginners, from the origins of the characters and his influences to technical aspects and the cast.

A Short Film about Making Beginners (14:33): In this featurette (presumable shot in black-and-white to mimic a student film), director Mills touches on the difficulties of writing, the talents of the cast/crew and more. Behind-the-scenes footage and comments from McGregor, Plummer and Laurent enhance this piece.

Also included is a hand-drawn Beginners Promo (1:02).
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Mike Mills’ Beginners is a likable and honest look at how happiness can be found at any age. Ewan McGregor and especially Christopher Plummer give strong enough performances that they help make the story human and relatable when it maybe should have felt more cliché at times. The transfers are passable on this DVD, so fans may be more curious to pick up the Blu-ray, even if Beginners has a small budget.
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