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November 15, 2011

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DVD of the Week – Review of Beginners (2011)

by NIR SHALEV

Beginners is a relatively low-budget film that echoes Woody Allen-style romantic comedies. However, this film is mostly dramatic and even though the romance is there, and is a really good romance, it’s not the center of the story.

Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, a cartoonist who is told his father has terminal cancer. The next shocking announcement in his life comes direct from his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), who claims that he’d been gay since he was 13 years old.

The film doesn’t begin at the beginning nor end at the end of the story, but has instead an appropriately non-linear structure. The film time travels back to the 1960s on several occasions to show Oliver’s relationship with his mother and his childhood, strangely somewhat lacking a father figure. In the present, it still travels in time, moving between Oliver helping his father cope, with the cancer and the rest of his life, and Oliver’s new relationship with Anna (Mélanie Laurent), a girl he met at a party.

From what I could deduce, Oliver begins a real relationship with his father just as he’s dying; Hal begins a new relationship with a much younger man (played well by Goran Visnjic) and tries to cope with the denial of an oncoming death; and Anna begins a relationship with Oliver while trying to fix her own father problems. The plot isn’t complicated but the film’s time traveling method of editing makes it more complex and therefore, a more interesting film.

McGregor is very fragile and believable. His performance is the most human, the most hurt, and the most sincere in the film, and also the best that he’s given so far in his career.

Overall it’s a touching and sincere film that feels natural and sounds believable. It can be tough to watch sometimes, but it flows so well from moment to moment that you can’t look away. Given that I hadn’t heard of it until it came out on DVD, it’s also one of the biggest surprises I’ve had this year.

The DVD and Blu-ray contain A Short Film about Making Beginners; Feature Commentary; Beginners Promo; and (Blu-ray exclusive) BD-Live Content.

Other new releases this week: Larry Crowne


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Andrew
    Nov 19 2011

    You weren’t kidding, Beginners was a huge surprise. I wasn’t at all interested in it initially and only put it in the Blockbuster Movie Pass queue because my wife wanted to see it. I figured, if it was as boring as it looked, we could at least take it in for an in-store exchange right away. But it was actually quite good, and oddly touching. So I’ve definitely been recommending Beginners to my friends. I certainly thought it was worth seeing, especially since I have an awesome, cost-effective way of renting movies. I mean with DVD’s, Blu-rays and video games by mail (with the option of in-store exchanges), movie channels and instant streaming all for $10 a month, the Blockbuster Movie Pass is hard to beat. If I didn’t have it, I may not have given The Change-Up a try, and I rather liked it, yeah some of the jokes were trying too hard, but a lot of it was still pretty funny. Being a DISH Network subscriber / employee I love telling people about the Blockbuster Movie Pass because it’s really rounded out my entertainment options and new customers can get it free for 12 months.

  2. Nov 19 2011

    You guys in te US had it made for a while while we in Canada just received Netflix within the last year and it doesn’t even have new releases. And it’s online only. That’s why it’s only $8/month here.
    And Blockbuster Canada is officially dead. The company is dead across the entire country (I know, I worked for them for 6 years).

  3. Nov 19 2011

    And I’m gald that you enjoyed Beginners like I have. And surprised is definitely the right word.

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