Review: Beginners

Melanie Laurent and Ewan McGregor in Beginners.

Maturity begins at death

Rating: **

In Beginners, Oliver tracks back to the time when his father, Hal made one important announcement. At 75, Hal announces that he’s (a) dying of cancer (b) gay. There’s that glow in Christopher Plummer’s face that I last saw in The Insider and in the more recent The Last Station, where he played Leo Tolstoy. Is Hal the best Plummer could ever do? The man is 82 years old and still whips up a defying performance. Despite his fateful future, he fills the screen with joy. As he explores today’s world, he sees a range of new things that earn his interest. These include late night parties and house music.

There is also that disappointment he faces when he admits after an unsuccessful trip to a gay bar “younger gay men don’t go for older gay men.” The film moves into two levels of flashbacks. One concerns a mid-thirties Oliver and his dying father, while the other revolves around a nine-year old Oliver and his mother, who according to him, lived life to the fullest.

Christopher Plummer plays Hal.

Upon meeting a young French actress, Anna, his life begins to unfold as he realizes his unresolved emotions around his father’s death and his parents’ life together. Anna, played by Melanie Laurent, who was last seen in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is a composite character in Oliver’s life. The way Laurent appears onscreen may seem naïve to filmgoers who are used to watching heroines flash around in designer wear. Anna has paternal woes of her own and when they intertwine with Oliver’s, problems erupt.

And then there’s Arthur, Hal’s beloved Jack Russell Terrier who talks through subtitles. Arthur is introduced as the best friend to both Hal and Oliver. He states “I can understand 150 words from the human vocabulary.” When told that he cannot go to a party he isn’t invited to, Arthur whines in the lonely house prompting Oliver to take him everywhere he went.


Played by Ewan McGregor, is Oliver the dullest protagonist I’ve ever seen?

This film is based on the true story of filmmaker Mike Mills and his father. There’s that touch of familiarity that glues you to the screen even though the film moves at snail pace. The film prepares you with fabled optimism that you wish Anna and Oliver never broke up. The life we discover in Beginners is lonely and grey. Mills makes it clear that it is the people who make things happen, it is people who make life merry.

Here is a film that cannot be loved or understood in a single viewing. It took me three viewings to experience the life this film offers. Such a quality is a rarity in Hollywood these days.


Review: Angels & Demons

Vittoria Vetra and Robert Langdon run around Rome in Ron Howard's Angels and Demons
Vittoria Vetra and Robert Langdon run around Rome in Ron Howard’s Angels and Demons


Angels & Demons (PG-13)

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer, Ewan Mc Gregor

Rating: *

Ron Howard is known for a talent. No, we’re not talking about filmmaking, we’re talking about deception. He can easily deceive the viewer into enjoying the movie. His technical team helps a lot in this area of context. Perhaps, he should’ve read the book before making it into a film. Well, I guess book reading wasn’t his talent after all. We’re talking of the deceptions which make us sit through and watch his latest offering – Angels & Demons. Yes, the book by Dan Brown who wrote The Da Vinci Code which was previously made into a film by the former.

The film offers you sheer entertainment throughout. Ron Howard has made sure that Robert Langdon doesn’t turn into a superhero and perform godly things as he did in the novel. Hence, he saves the day. But, he still ruins the day with an unclear detail whether the antagonist in the film was a religious terrorist. Visual Effects save the day again. The imagery of the antimatter is sensational. However, it is again a notice that Ron Howard pulls up another large crowd in front of the Vatican church. The story starts pretty dull and turns a little exciting which again turns dull and thanks to the effervescent twist in the tale, the film ends with dual climaxes. The first was what we thought would be and the second was what Ron Howard’s deception has made.

The story has a few changes from the book – Langdon is summoned to the Vatican City where he works with Swiss Guard helps unravel four yet-to-be-done executions. He is also informed that the religious terrorist has stolen the antimatter from Switzerland and regarding this, CERN specialist Vittoria has also come to the Vatican land and will assist him and shower us with her rigid smile and quaint beauty. The story moves at breakneck speed till a couple of murders put the brakes and bring in the unnecessary slowness. How Langdon solves the mystery and finds the antimatter forms the story. Also in this story is Carmelengo Patrick Mc Kenna who provides them with the necessary dialogues that dampen their spirits and help music composer Hans Zimmer bring the sad violins.

The film has no humour. Yes, that’s right. The film is too focused on its plot that it doesn’t give way for the humour The Da Vinci Code had contained. Nevertheless to say, Tom Hanks does his best in bringing Robert Langdon to life. Ayelet Zurer, the Israeli beauty who portrays Vittoria has also done her best. Ewan McGregor stuns the audience as the Carmelengo.

Ron Howard as I said is a master of deception. How? The Carmelengo portrayed by Ewan McGregor loses his acting skills and blabbers at several points. Well, these points are then put together and we see the Carmelengo playing the game very well. Hans Zimmer returns with the Robert Langdon Theme and very much to our surprise, we have his sinful violins playing a riot.

Angels & Demons fills us with Anticipations and Deceptions. We get highly anticipated to see the visuals of Vatican Rome while we’re deceived to watch an action replay of the Ron Howard-type dramas. Angels & Demons is a movie filled with splendid visuals. However, it fails to impress one’s mind as a captivating drama.