Toronto Dispatch: Mike Mills’ BEGINNERS

OKCMOA Film Curator Brian Hearn is at the Toronto International Film Festival, and will be posting some of his thoughts on what he’s seeing. Here’s his latest report:

I like Mike Mills. He seems like a cool guy. He’s a graphic designer, musician, and film director, perhaps best known for his music videos and his debut feature THUMBSUCKER (2005) which featured his distinctly “indie” visual style. I was lucky enough to catch the world preem of his new film BEGINNERS starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, and Melanie Laurent. Despite the $40 ticket at the old school, cushy red velvet seated Elgin Theater (probably my favorite venue at TIFF), it was worth every penny. Ewan plays a scruffy graphic designer (Mike wisely writes what he knows) who has recently lost his mother to cancer. After their 44 year marriage his seventy something father, played brilliantly by Plummer, announces that he is gay and wants to do something about it. He puts a charming personal ad in the paper and soon finds a much younger carefree boyfriend. Ewan’s character Oliver is somewhat shell shocked but understanding. He loves his dad but starts questioning his parent’s relationship. He was an only child and in a series of flashbacks we see the “arrangement” between his busy museum director father and his elegant, fun loving mother who keeps up a brave face to her emotionally probing young son. The young Oliver senses something is not alright but no one admits to it. Flash forward to Oliver’s daily existence in the design studio as he tries to work through his grief by coming up with an elaborate album cover that expresses his sadness and confusion. Needless to say the band doesn’t get it. His coworkers drag him to a costume party to cheer him up and he meets the adorable Melanie Laurent, a seemingly mute actress who lives in a hotel room. Oh and there’s an even more adorable jack russell terrier that speaks in subtitles. Anyway, a love affair ensues as Oliver copes with his father’s new lifestyle, friends, and a fatal diagnosis. Mike Mills has made a leap forward with this film. He achieves a kind of emotional intelligence and honesty with his characters that equals the best Woody Allen films, ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN. It was a treat to see Mike and his leads in person. Poor Ewan couldn’t make it but sent his regrets from a cold, rainy film shoot next to a Scottish loch which was read by the the venerable Mr. Plummer. Great job, Mike. I’ll be bringing this one to OKC, guaranteed. Apparently the buyers are circling as we speak.

- Brian

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