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Overstreet

Beginners

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I saw this film a few weeks ago, and I'd be hard-pressed to think of a film that surprised me so mightily in contrast to a discouraging trailer.

I can't say more just yet, but put it on your must-see list. I think it'll catch a lot of people by surprise and end up in a lot of top 10 lists at the end of the year.

I'm interviewing Mike MIlls and Ewan McGregor this afternoon.

Has anyone else seen this? If so, feel free to suggest questions for my interview.

Edited by Overstreet

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Well, I wanted to like this one, but after seeing it last night (on a double-bill with Page One: Inside the New York Times, for which I had a pass), I am reminded of why I don't go out of my way to see individual arthouse films in the big city all that often these days. I won't say my reaction was as negative as vjmorton's, but I think I tilt closer to his end of the spectrum (and whereas vjmorton DISliked Submarine less than this film, I actually kind of LIKED Submarine):

(Mills, USA, 2011, 1) I would rather subscribe to O Magazine than watch this film again

I dislike about contemporary Indiewood in one cute twee package ... subtitled dog thoughts FTL!!! . . .

much as I hated SUBMARINE, I actually preferred it to BEGINNERS. Aoyade at least has a director's bag of inventive tricks . . .

Etc., etc. And I think I agree with him that Christopher Plummer gives a fine performance in an underwritten supporting role.

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I liked this film in stretches. My biggest problem with it is the way the script

introduces the tension of a "break-up" in order to bring the film to a close. The math was too simple.

Otherwise, I rather liked the still image interludes, voiceover, and ongoing conversation with pet.

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I'm assuming certain things aren't spoilers, and that at this point they don't matter anyway.

I feel like I'm always playing catch-up around here, but finally saw it, loved it, and here's a review.

FWIW, this is the review that pushed me from "see it on Netflix" to "see it now." So I got my hands on a copy and gave it a spin last night. I thought it was a lovely film; a human[e] film. A few observations:

1. I've seen criticism of some of the choices made--for instance, after Oliver and Hal first find out about the cancer, we see the image of the quarter followed by dimes, nickles, pennies--as too left-field for the subject matter. I found it appropriate, though; there's something in the almost-obsessive downward count that strikes me as just the sort of thing a person confronted with such news would do. It's not in dialogue--it's in image, and it stresses the limitations of language (i.e. saying that a cancer is "the size of a quarter" doesn't do justice to how very large a quarter-sized spot is in terms of its impact, etc etc etc).

2. I really liked the relationship between Hal and Andy. There was an interesting dynamic going on there--complicated, to be sure, since Andy is so wounded and Hal is dying--that seemed to skirt the edges of stereotype (older man with unfaithful young lover, younger man with father-issues, etc) without going trite. A lot of this success I credit to Plummer, who (as far as I can tell) absolutely earned his award the other night. But Goran Visnjic is also very good, and manages to make his character both pathetic and funny--sometimes in the same scene.

3. I suspect you could formulate some very interesting psychological readings of the film, if given the chance. The very obvious parallelism between Anna and Georgia, for instance, or the obsessive [?] way Oliver sorts through the markers of different time-periods (both in those flashes of images and in the way he spray-paints historic dates onto buildings).

4. Come to think of it, those scenes ("This is the sky. These are the stars. This is the President") are of a piece with the quarter I mentioned above; they, too, stress the limitations of language. There's a sense in which the words "it was the fifties" do not convey the reality as...strikingly? Viscerally? Emotionally? As the images do. And, of course, Oliver is an artist--and his first meeting with Anna is one in which she is mute...I'm sure there's other examples that could be brought up.

I liked this film in stretches. My biggest problem with it is the way the script

introduces the tension of a "break-up" in order to bring the film to a close. The math was too simple.

Otherwise, I rather liked the still image interludes, voiceover, and ongoing conversation with pet.

Yeah, the be-spoilered twist is just a bit easy, but I didn't find it difficult to overlook--particularly since it fits the character of Oliver so well.

The interaction with the pet was fantastic. And absolutely true-to-life, as far as I can tell. :D

EDIT: I heard this interview a while back, but thought it might be worthwhile to drop a link here. Mike Mills on Fresh Air.

Edited by NBooth

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I really like the way you describe the interludes as expressions fully aware of the limitations of language. That makes me like the film even more. I guess his graffiti is formed by that notion as well, as he can't think of anything other to do than spraypaint actual historic things rather than abstractions or pithy statements. It is a sad approximation of Wittgenstein's dictum that "whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent."

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I guess his graffiti is formed by that notion as well, as he can't think of anything other to do than spraypaint actual historic things rather than abstractions or pithy statements. It is a sad approximation of Wittgenstein's dictum that "whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent."

I like that--and since the dates and events are out-of-context, they don't even have meaning as discussions of history. Ultimately, they don't refer to anything.

Good stuff. I suspect this is a movie that will reward second- and third-viewings.

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I guess his graffiti is formed by that notion as well, as he can't think of anything other to do than spraypaint actual historic things rather than abstractions or pithy statements. It is a sad approximation of Wittgenstein's dictum that "whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent."

I like that--and since the dates and events are out-of-context, they don't even have meaning as discussions of history. Ultimately, they don't refer to anything.

Good stuff. I suspect this is a movie that will reward second- and third-viewings.

At the very least, it makes me look forward to more Mills films. I haven't been the biggest fan of the past two of his that I have seen, but neither of them had the balance between playfulness and drama Beginners does. I really love finding that balance in cinema.

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On 3/2/2012 at 7:57 AM, M. Leary said:

 

At the very least, it makes me look forward to more Mills films. I haven't been the biggest fan of the past two of his that I have seen, but neither of them had the balance between playfulness and drama Beginners does. I really love finding that balance in cinema.

Link to our thread on 20th Century Women.

Edited by NBooth

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