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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

BEGINNERS

By D.E.Levine

The cast of this small movie shines and the movie grows bigger because of their acting.

Writer/director Mike Mills based this story about different types of love and the people seeking and finding it on his own life experience as a straight son watching the dying process of a beloved gay father.

At the start of the film we meet Oliver (Ewan McGregor) who is mourning the passing of his adored father Hal (Christopher Plummer).

Hal, though departed, is very much alive in his son's thoughts, often pushing his thoughts aside as Oliver remembers his father.

Although set mainly in 2003, in a voiceover Oliver speaks about the 1955 marriage of his parents and the decades that they were together, remembered as a series of kisses and a marriage without depth.

Six months after his mother Georgia (Mary Kay Page) dies, the 75-year-old Hal announces he's gay, amasses a new group of friends and takes a much younger lover (Goran Visnjic).

All of this is witnessed by Oliver, adoring but somewhat confused at his father's new lifestyle.

A second love story has Oliver in the lead when, at a costume party, he meets French actress Anna (Melanie Laurent). Anna has problems and issues of her own. She is a wounded individual.

But, as their relationship progresses through handholding, roller skating, walking Cosmo (Hal's dog) kisses, tears and all that love entails, Mills skillfully intertwines the Oliver's memories of Hal's cancer and last days with the new love relationship beginning.

The stories lag in places and are sometimes less believable than Mills aimed for, but the cast gives stellar performances making the characters charming, if not totally believable.

At 83, Plummer still has phenomenal screen presence and gives an outstanding performance that makes up for any existing weaknesses in the script of other performances.