Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The two best love stories of this year so far (and maybe longer) are Woody Allen's MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and Mike Mills' BEGINNERS.

BEGINNERS is maybe a little darker and not quite as spectacular, but it's equally as original and well written and directed and it's only Mill's second feature as far as I know (the first was THUMBSUCKER which I missed but now will seek out).

The story and editing are so clever it's almost an art project. But then the story is so classic yet fresh (the struggle to find love and keep it, with the weight of the past and parental imperfection (which in this case may be an understatement from the child's perspective).

In some ways it's a more engaging simplified and hopeful version of the bolder project: TREE OF LIFE.

And the directing and acting are a total treat. Ewan McGregor is terrific as he always is. Christopher Plummer has gone from being, for my taste, a kind of over theatrical stiff to blossom in recent years into a complete original on top of his game (see his Tolstoy characterization in LAST STATION). But this may be his crowning achievement.

And Melanie Laurent is a revelation. Her performance is the heart of the movie. But the real surprise for me was Goran Visnjic, the big Eastern European hunk from ER. He plays the most unique and moving "gay" man in movies to date. (Mary Page Keller in the smaller role of the mother is also a delightful surprise, though a darker one [most of her scenes are superficially comic and light but with an ominous undertone].)

BEGINNERS is not as light as the trailer makes it out to be or as MIDNIGHT IN PARIS [though there are plenty of light and even comic moments as good as anything in a Woody Allen movie]. But it's definitely romantic and hopeful despite some of the sadder aspects of the story and the characters.  And ultimately heartwarming in the least cliched way that word implies.

I highly recommend it. (And the two good friends I went to see it with, as well as the two who recommended it to me, also totally dug it.)  

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