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  • Writer's pictureSteve

Beginners (2010)

Small talk, bedroom eyes, little deaths and new beginnings. I only really watched Beginners because Christopher Plummer had been nominated for an Oscar this year for his performance. Otherwise, I would most likely not have bothered. You tend to hear this about a film when someone has happened upon it by accident and then been so grateful for the event, that they felt the need to share this with their readers, if only for the fact that the film was brilliant and they had almost missed it altogether. What are the chances, eh?

Well, honestly, that really isn't the case here. I nearly didn't watch it because I guessed it would be another, overlong, lacklustre performance from McGregor, with an overtly simple story, doing an awful American accent. And guess what? What are the chances, eh? Add Melanie Laurent into the mix and you have a concoction that even the French Revolution couldn't get a good clean guillotine to.

Frankly, I've had enough of McGregor doing shoddy narration in an even shoddier accent. This ruins most films, with maybe the exception of Blade Runner and The Shawshank Redemption, in neither of which, thankfully, McGregor is credited in even the remotest way.

The film is a cluttered, laborious mess, if I'm honest, punctuated with slivers and sparks of inspiration in the form of an imaginatively shot hotel corridor here, a bookshop stuffed to bursting with stock there, or a lingering glance on the first night with a new lover, cast in pastel hues from a dawning/setting sun. The story flits uncomfortably from Lead/Dying Father to Lead/New Lover and back again too often for you to get your breath and it never lingers for long enough on either to make the viewer comfortable, drawing some of the empathy away from the lead role. In the event that a scene does last long enough for the viewer to get their teeth into it, it seems forced and itchy, like an unwashed coat that's not been out of the cupboard since last winter. If I tell you that the dog has the best lines, it gives you an idea of what you're dealing with.

The love story here is tenuous to say the least. There is a semblance of new found love here, in the intensity of their embraces and the desperate attempts by both characters to appear charming, sophisticated and bohemian, even if they do fail to confidently portray these traits in most cases. McGregor's character (I forget the name and truly can't be bothered to look it up) rarely gets out of first gear and his performance is jilted and staid. He looks as if he's just been told he's only getting a tenth of the fee he thought he was going to get for the job that has gone horribly wrong and that he was only doing as a favour for one of his mates in the first place. There is no opportunity to get into his skin and the viewer can be forgiven for not really wanting to go there. He is not a particularly likeable or dislikeable person. McGregor simply doesn't make him interesting enough for the audience to spend time investing in.

For Plummer, who after all, was the reason for watching this in the first place, it is only for the lack of a convincing on screen presence from McGregor and Laurent together that make his performance look a little better than average. Plummer is a fine actor, of that there can be no doubt, but he looks positively god-like here, compared to the cardboard cut-outs that he's working with. So, not a bad stab by Plummer, who spends most of the film with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, permanently on the brink of a cockney wink.

Overall, you really need to be a fan of one of the three main performers here to get anything much out of it. For the rest of us, it is too long, too devoid of content and too lacking in meaty, chewy effort from the cast. I was only half way in before I was looking at my watch, wondering when the hell it would be over. This would give me toothache if I let it.

Please, will someone tell Mike Mills that he isn't Woody Allen. Thankyou!


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