Beginners

Mike Mills’ weirdly self-sabotaging follow-up to Thumbsucker starts with a fascinating premise — following the passing of his wife, a 75 year-old man (Christopher Plummer) comes out of the closet and goes on to live a full, fulfilling gay life before his death a few years later — and shoves it aside in favor of a tedious A-story about his mopey son (Ewan McGregor). Plummer is fantastic, and Mills gets a lot of mileage out of the character’s bittersweet story even with the precious little screen time he gives it, but the overall tone is suffocatingly cutesy, and McGregor’s tentative romance with an insecure actress (Melanie Laurent) plays like the semi-autobiographical navel-gazing that it actually is.

Yes, Mills subtitles the “thoughts” of a jack russell terrier (or perhaps the protagonist’s projections), and whether you find that concept amusing or insufferable might be the effective litmus test for whether you’ll enjoy Beginners. But for me, “dog subtitles” really captures the essense of this entire project, which is filled to the brim with C-level indie quirk that’s too self-absorbed to even bother to be funny. Beginners seemed to resonate with a lot of people, but I thought it was a grating bore.

 

-- Eugene Novikov

beginners
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One Comment

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Harry Cohn, founder of Columbia Pictures, once said that he could tell the quality of a film by the degree to which he squirmed in his theater seat. More squirming, lousier film.
    I was lying on the floor watching this cliche-infested, manipulative, oxygen-sucking, insulting mess and swear that my gyrating butt took several years off the life of the carpet. “Beginners” left me with one nagging question: what’s worse, a talking dog or a “mysterious” Frenchwoman cooked up from the most self-indulgent, pretentious 60’s “New Wave” films? Now off to the vomitorium.

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