Beginners - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Beginners Reviews

Page 1 of 98
Super Reviewer
½ February 29, 2012
This is certainly not a comedy, since its sense of humor is not efficient, and I found it sad and depressing, contrary to those who thought it was sweet and optimistic. Besides, the characters seem too shallow in their artificial indie quirkiness and the dialogue is pretty much annoying.
Super Reviewer
½ February 26, 2014
Honestly couldn't get into this. Cover is so cute, movie doesn't match it at all. Kind of dull toned, slow pace...well, just dull. The gay dad angle was good, but didn't care about either of the two leads. Turned it off after half hour.
Super Reviewer
March 11, 2011
I loved how the structure, the narration, and the subtle quirks of Mike Mills' "Beginners" heighten what is already a terrifically acted and uncommonly sincere story. The film wears it's heart on it's sleeve from the first frame and maintains it's emotional resonance without any sap or string pulling. Plummer won a most deserved Oscar for his memorable work, but it's puzzling as to why McGregor, excellent here, didn't get similar acknowledgements.
Super Reviewer
½ May 24, 2011
"Beginners" is buoyed by its decision to play it straight and staying away from being over the top, quirky, or eccentric. Instead, this indie film decides to play up its varied and multi-talented cast by giving them sincere words to speak and dark fears to touch upon. The film itself is not completely an actor's film. The script is very poignant, touching upon the raw emotions of people dealing with death, insecurities, and their own feelings of loneliness. What's great about the film is that it deals with these complex emotions by looking at the lives of two generations of men, both plagued by their own inability to control their destinies and both remain stuck inside their own heads. The older half of this twosome is Hal, played by the incomparable Christopher Plummer. This is a role that belongs to Plummer, as he moves seamlessly between a man torn between the past and present. Instead of the gimmicky premise that you're expecting, very little of the film directly deals with Hal coming out the closet late in life. There are flashbacks which show him coming out to his son, being in a gay bar, and his relationship with a younger man, but most of them show the advice of the father being given to his hardhearted son. Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, who shifts between the present as the bereaved and yet not lost son, and in the past where he was watching his father live his life for the first time, and yet also watches it start to slip away. The poignancy of a life lost is even darker thanks to the irony of him never being himself for most of it. His dead wife isn't made the butt of the joke either, as she is represented well in the film, and that ties together a loose end that also translates to Oliver's life at present. He and Anna's (Laurent) love story is amazingly detailed, but drags in places, mostly because both seem very unsteady with their emotions. It's one of the more honest films about a couple that doesn't know how to be one.
Super Reviewer
August 14, 2011
For a film so considered and cloistered, this one was strangely breathless, and impossible to turn away from, showing something new from scene to scene that kept you watching and kept subtly raising the ante. Ewan McGregor's an old favourite of mine, and Mélanie Laurent's a new one, so I may have been pre-disposed to really enjoy this film. That said, it earned Christopher Plummer his long overdue Oscar, and really balanced its three characters' stories well - without drowning the viewer in sentiment, which is an accomplishment given the subject matter (family relationships, dying, coming out, a tentatively hip new love). The kind of film I'm not used to seeing, a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. Quiet classic.
The Gandiman
Super Reviewer
½ December 23, 2012
'Beginners" begins and ends with Christopher Plummer. When he's not on the screen the film deflates. Ewan McGregor and MÃ (C)lanie Laurent are good but the light script does them no favors.

Plummer gives his late out-of-the-closet character a level of dimension that transcends the material. It's a shame the film is more concerned with style making the topic lose its bite therefore minimizing its impact.

Like another 2011 Oscar-winning acting gem "The Iron Lady", "Beginners" is held together by a hard-working genius. Too bad the rest of the film doesn't work quite as hard.
Super Reviewer
½ December 13, 2012
While hardly striking any new ground in the "what does it all mean?" love and life equation principal, Beginners has a style and panache that ultimately is quirky enough and confident enough in its presentation to be satisfying viewing.

This is a boy meets girl story - or more to the point, damaged boy meets quirky girl story. As a side story we have the story of boy's father (expertly played by Christopher Plummer - coming as no surprise to anyone), which is mostly told in flashbacks. Fortunately, writer/director Mike Mills does a capable job of interspersing the secondary story of the father with the tale of the son, so that it all seems pertinent and not a distraction.

The big tease here is that Plummer, upon the death of his wife of over 40 years, comes out of the closet. This is a revelation to his son, who knew "something" was amiss with his parent's relationship, but hadn't figured on his father being gay. The film thankfully does not dwell on the son trying to deal with dad's gayness, but instead brings to the fore a spirit of the celebration of life that seems to elude the son in his prior relationships.

The tone of the film comes from the quirky sentiments and drawings of the son (a solid Ewan McGregor performance), especially when he works on a piece he calls the history of sadness. Following this same quirkiness, you have McGregor dressed as Freud at a costume party, attracted to a woman who refuses to speak to him; preferring to write it all down (claiming she has laryngitis). A totally different take on the usual boy meets girl routine.

What follows is somewhat predictable, and occasionally falls upon some dreary sentiments that somehow only appear in films like "I don't know what love is supposed to feel like" - uh, if you aren't sure, then you ain't! (but that's just my perspective).

So, passable entertainment, and some nice wordplay make this a worthwhile watch, though I did suffer one WTF moment. McGregor and a friend have started doing "industrial art" i.e. tagging - he wants to impress his new girly, so he asks her what her opinion of vandalism is - to which she replies "I guess I?m ok with it". Holy moly, whether you agree with tagging or not, vandalism encompasses much more than that - and at the time girly has no idea that McGregor is only speaking of tagging - so girly is ok with the random destruction of other people's things - not someone I would want to hang with, would you?
Super Reviewer
May 16, 2011
Slow moving, and at times rather boring. Great actors, though...just sometimes that isn't enough, and I need more endearing qualities for me to accept a slow moving film. This one fell short of that a bit...
paul o.
Super Reviewer
½ August 2, 2012
A lovable narration from Ewan Mcgregor and a strong performance by Christopher Plummer gives audiences a very new contemporary romance. The concept is simple but the direction Mike Mills takes the film is both subtle and graceful. An underrated gem for 2011.
Super Reviewer
½ February 12, 2012
Very beautiful in its treatment of love, death, courage, existential angst. The repetitious history of the family, the city, the world, as well as the flashback humor, is like a subtler version of The Tree of Life.

Every character has cute little quirks: Hal talking to inanimate objects and replying for them; Georgia "killing" the young Oliver in various ways and "interacting" with the artwork; Oliver's funny/sad drawings; Arthur, the dog's nonverbal dialogue:

Arthur: She's unlike any girl I've met.
Oliver: Someone flashy walks into your life and you're just gonna fall for it.
Arthur: Are we married yet?
Oliver: No, it doesn't work like that. There are other steps. It's complicated.
Arthur: I hope this feeling lasts.
Oliver: Yeah, me too.

The ending is too easy and open though. Oliver and Anna still have issues far deeper than just "commitment anxiety." They come back into each others' lives, and the audience is supposed to be happy that they're trying again despite not knowing what the fuck they're going to do.
Tired of Previews
Super Reviewer
½ July 12, 2011
Directed (and written) by Mike Mills. Focus Features, 2010. Staring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent.

Genre: Comedy, Drama.

Question: Do you think you became who you are because of the way your parents purposely raised you? Sure - it is natural to think that. But after watching Beginners today I now think it is also our observation of our parents as a couple that can also have a profound effect - both good and bad.

You can have a wonderful childhood. Your parents love you, take care of you, and fulfill your basic needs. But what happens when they don't really love each other? A child watching two parents who tolerate - not hate - and just merely exist in the same household can alter a person's path - irrecoverably. That is the premise of Beginners. It isn't pretty but it is real. Perhaps too real for some.

Beginners is probably not for everyone. I, however, enjoyed it very much. It is slow, quiet and sad but filled with a glimmer of hope for better times to come. The story takes a look at some of the not-so-great emotions we humans endure in order to find the good in life. Many might not want to go through the emotional roller coaster that this movie takes but I recommend it anyway.

The film is about a young man (Ewan McGregor) whose father (Christopher Plummer) passes away and we meet him a couple of months after. He is going through the depression phase of loosing a parent but it goes deeper than that. He also lost his mother several years prior and after that his father announces, at the age of 75, that he is gay and out. Now I am not spoiling the movie for you with this information because it is all said within the first five minutes. This movie is about a journey that the young man takes and how he comes out on the other end.

The movie follows a convoluted path with some in the present not too soon after his father's death and with flashbacks of his father's life as an out and about gay man. In addition we see some childhood memories of him and his mother. As a young boy he witnessed his parents and their relationship or lack thereof. It effects him so much that he has difficulty with other relationships. However, he becomes a compassionate person despite the unconventional upbringing.

There are also some odd storytelling quirks thrown in that I rather enjoyed. This is definitely an independent film that doesn't follow much of the Hollywood standards.

I sat there totally drawn in - watching a person at a vulnerable state in their life while still having compassion was intriguing. The cinema, for me, is not just about escaping your reality to witness someone gain some inexplicable power or watch two people falling in love despite the obstacles set in front of them. It is about exploring human nature and what all that means. We are flawed, we are illogical and we can't help who we love. We cannot control any of those things and why should we? Beginners was brave enough to discuss these points. Bravo!

Ewan McGregor was perfect in this role. No, I am not saying that just because he is my all time favorite actor. He is a great actor and he had to show a lot of restraint mixed with deep feeling sometimes with just his eyes. I felt his pain, joy, and his sadness. Sorry, but when he teared up - so did I. Christopher Plummer was also fantastic. Watching a man finally live his life the way he always wanted after denying who he truly was for 50+ years was magical. Plus, the father/son relationship was a dear thing to witness.

Beginners explores a part of human nature that is sometimes hard to watch or understand. But I think we, as moviegoers, need that type of escape if only to allow us to reflect on our own lives once in a while. I will admit it was heartbreaking to watch the relationships end. However, when one thing ends something always begins.

My favorite thing: Ewan McGregor, of course!

My least favorite thing: It was a little slow and think that will turn many people away from seeing this film.

Rating: R
Length: 105 minutes

Review: 7 out of 10
Super Reviewer
March 10, 2012
Writer/Director Mike Mills' long awaited follow-up to his 2005 film "Thumbsucker" arrives with this independent emotional drama that has a similar sense for the off-beat that his previous outing had. This, however, doesn't impress as much.
Oliver (Ewan McGregor) is a graphic artist that is coming to terms with the death of his father Hal (Christopher Plummer). In his time of grief, he embarks on a romance with French actress Anna (Melanie Laurent), while remembering the past of his parents' failed marriage and when his father revealed that he was gay, and dying of cancer.
I can't honestly say that I was entirely drawn to this film upon it's release. I only checked it out for Plummer's Oscar winning supporting turn, of which, he made history by being the oldest actor to ever be awarded at age 82. The performances of McGregor, Laurent and Goran Visnjic are to be commended also though but Plummer does get the juicier role. As for the material itself, it was peppered with an original quirkiness that managed to just about see it through some periodic lulls. It was too slow for me but I have a suspicion that this might serve better on a second viewing. During my initial sitting though, I found it to waver and lose it's momentum after the hour mark. Ultimately, it's the zesty characters of Plummer and Laurent that keep the film ticking over and despite a good effort from McGregor, his character is a bit too dull and depressing to fully relate to. As it's him that drives the story, the journey becomes somewhat repetitive.
A semi-autobiographical and highly personal story from Mike Mills that has an obvious air of catharsis. It just doesn't allow you to engage, as well as it should.
Super Reviewer
½ February 17, 2012
'Beginners' is a film that thrives off the power of its performances as well as its attempt to be unique. It earns points for its originality, but the film ultimately seems to drag on until the viewer loses interest. It starts well and interestingly enough, but it eventually become its own enemy as the entertainment value steadily drops.
Super Reviewer
½ January 12, 2011
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic, Mary Page Keller, Jodi Long, Kai Lennox, China Shavers, Jose Yenque, Brian Nolan, Melissa Tang

Director: Mike Mills

Summary: Based on indie director Mike Mills's relationship with his father, this intriguing drama tells the story of Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a graphic artist coming to grips with the imminent death of his father (Christopher Plummer), who, at 75, has one last secret: He's gay. Both inspired and confused by his father's determination to find true love at last, Oliver tentatively pursues a romance with commitment-shy French actress Anna (Mélanie Laurent).

My Thoughts: "I really loved the film. It's charming, honest, and heartfelt. The father starts really living after his wife passes and oddly enough Oliver starts truly living after his father passes. Both letting themselves be honest and finding love in the midst of it. The story is at times depressing, humorous, and beautiful. I did enjoy the father and son story more then Oliver and Anna's. It just seemed to drag a bit. Christopher Plummer stole every scene he was in, as did the Jack Russell Terrier. In all the movie is definitely one I would recommed, and one I would like to see again."
Super Reviewer
June 5, 2011
an excellent script in terms of dialogue and some excellent direction choices make this a solid watch, but the film left the story for the sake of agenda in some glaring ways that detracted from the reality of what the characters were going through in real time and how it relates to people in similar situations. life doesnt pause to push agendas in such a forced way, and the film suffered for it a few times. overall a good film with some wonderful performances and a wonderful romance involving mcgregor and laurent.
Super Reviewer
April 18, 2011
To be honest and tell you the truth, there's nothing special about this movie that tells a story of a nearly 40 years old man who's struggling in his relationship after the death of his father, who turns out to be gay just after his mother died.. Even that, I must say the cast did a really good job.. I should given the title 'The Forgotten One' to Ewan McGregor as he is one of the finest actor in his age in Britannia land but he never took a credit for his performance.. For Melanie Laurent, I'm just surprised yet happy at the same time when I know she starred in this movie.. Since I first saw her performance in 'Inglorious Basterds' I know that I have fall for her, and just as in that movie Melanie once again prove me that I'm right to fall for her as I can say she could be the next Audrey Tautou in Hollywood.. While for Christopher Plummer, well what more can I say? He is the star of this movie, even though the story of this movie is about his son, with his (should I say it) crazy performance as a gay-man-instead-a-grandfather-should-be.. Well I just want to congratulate Plummer as his performance in this movie will grant him a lot of awards, especially the biggest one : Academy Awards.. Last word, it just an ordinary movie with a nothing special story but a great performance from the cast..
Super Reviewer
½ November 14, 2011
Partway through watching 'Beginners,' I was reminded heavily of 'Garden State', an association that I can't break. Both films are charming indie romance/comedies that wishes to impart broad, loaded thoughts on life and love, both are the textbook definition of 'quirky' and both feature a generally melancholy tone with an equally melancholy main character to boot. In addition, both stories are driven by a girl who suddenly comes into their lives and changes their perspectives. The one new thing 'Beginners' adds to the mix is the interesting dynamic of a newly openly gay father, played fantastically by Christopher Plummer, who had a great 2011 considering both this film and 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.' And the movie is very enjoyable and deep. On the other hand, while the script is sharp and the characters are generally likable, I can't help but feeling let down by the fact that the movie thinks it is so fresh, and wants to be fresh so badly, but ended up being the first case I've come across since Garden State where the overabundance of quirk and the purposefully enigmatic philosophical ruminations dampened the appeal for me. Maybe I'm simply not the kind of person that this movie will resonate with (and I bet it resonates with A LOT of people). I, however, can only love these similar quirky indie comedies for so long before I begin to get a bit weary. If you aren't feeling that way, this film is highly recommended. But what else can I say? It may be called "Beginners," but, as smart as it is, I feel like I've been watching it for years.
Super Reviewer
December 29, 2011
This is why I try to watch all the movies that are nominated for awards. Because I want to know if the movies nominated are great or not. "Beginners" is up for a bunch of spirit movie awards, which recognizes the best in Independent movies. Well, if this is among the best, then this was one of the worst years ever for Independent films. This movie is slow, boring, quasi depressing, and only has one good performance(Christopher Plummer who is also up for a Golden Globe). The movie is about Oliver(Ewan McGregor) who is trying to forge a new relationship with an eccentric woman named Anna(Melanie Laurent). The relationship brings back memories of his father who after 44 years of marriage came out of the closet(months after his wife died). Once he came out he lived a full, gay(very gay) life. He would years later pass away from cancer, but Oliver uses the memories to help find peace. It's a very interesting concept, but the execution is just poorly done. Christopher Plummer plays the 75 year old father, and he is great. He's funny, charming, and owns every scene he's in. It's when the movie focuses on Oliver and Anna, that it falls apart. This is a dramady, but needed more comedy to balance it out. Watch at your own risk, you make like it. Or you may be like me and just happy when it's over.
Super Reviewer
½ December 28, 2011
Middle aged cartoonist Oliver sabotages his relationships, but adjusts his priorities when his 75-year old dad announces he's gay, takes a younger lover, and then is diagnosed with cancer. With its quiet old-timey jazz score and gentle breaking of the fourth wall (a Jack Russell terrier commenting on the action via subtitles), Mike Mills' sophomore feature brings to mind late 70s/early 80s Woody Allen, though with more melancholy and less funny.
Super Reviewer
½ July 5, 2011
A "boy meets girl" indie. Quite charming, lovely couple, but not great.

Hal: Well let's say... let's say since you were little, and you've always dreamed of someday getting a lion. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and you wait and the lion doesn't come. Then along comes a giraffe. You can be alone, or you can be with the giraffe.
Oliver: I'd wait for the lion.
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