Ordinary People - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Ordinary People Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ January 28, 2014
The greatest discoveries are internal ones, and this intelligent script portrays the inner adventures of a young man named Conrad and the people important to him. We quickly learn the family lost their oldest son, but we don't know how. Only Conrad can tell us and that's unlikely since he was recently released from the hospital after trying to end his own life. Over the course of the film, the skill of unprejudiced listening is introduced, treasured, and honed. Director Redford practices what the story preaches, allowing us to sit in silences with the characters and listen to the truths - something perhaps too risky for modern movies.
Super Reviewer
May 23, 2007
Deeply involving family drama, wealthy in emotion, honesty and vigor. Every step of the way it successfully grabs your attention, yet never once going too far or undermining its realism. The tears, the tantrums, the frustrations and breakdowns - all of it acted out in a riveting display of first-rate performances. Everyone in the cast gives it their all, but the real stand-out here is Timothy Hutton. His portrayal of a psychologically distressed teenager, dealing with the loss of his brother and other family-related problems, is beyond fantastic. As can be said for the technical aspects of the film as well. Sublime directing and flawless editing, adds that little extra touch that took this from being a good film, to a great one. Now I can't say I'm much on the overall aestethics, what with all the ghastly 80's perms and questionable fashion style. But considering that's the only thing that bothered me somewhat, shows just what a truly outstanding piece of cinema this really his. A movie about letting go and facing your inner demons, that even after 30 years since its making, still holds incredible emotional value. Truly a must-see, for anyone who has ever suffered through some dark chapters in their life. Because this may very well help your healing process and make you look at things more objectively. At least it did for me, as I could relate to some of its subject matters on a personal level. In that sense, this is not so much a movie, as it is a rare and timeless instrument for moving on and cutting your losses. A larger-than-life motion picture, that gave me so much more than just two hours away from boredom.
Super Reviewer
March 8, 2011
I found this portrait of a family crumbling apart in the wake of tragedy to be meerely really good instead of excellent or classic. Maybe I've just seen this type of thing enough to where it really has to be something to stand out...and this film didn't do that for me. Maybe it's because I'm still mad it stoel the Oscar from Raging Bull, and film that truly did deserve it without question.

Regardless of all that, this is a pretty good film, although it's not one I'd want to watch all the time. Maybe it's because the characters seemed to emotionally (and otherwise) detached, and it's hard to really feel for them a much as I should have. I'm no cold hearted bastard, but it was a tad difficult for me to completely care.

The performances are really what make the film worthwhile though. Even if the characters are cold and distant, and it's hard to root for them, that is to the credit of the people playing them...very nice, warm, and colorful people. Hutton is especially really good, as is Moore, whom really broke type for this movie in a performance that is still probably her most dramatic.

Any real faults with this movie could be chalked up to it being Redford's directorial debut, although that's not much of an excuse considering the number of years he spent in the business before deciding to direct.

Ok, I'm rambling. Enough of that. You should see this. It offers a decent portrait of a family who are not as ordinary as they try to be, even if it hasn't totally held up overall.
Super Reviewer
February 9, 2011
Excellent! I haven't seen Raging Bull yet, but I think this film may have deserved Best Picture. I had never heard anything about this film other than that fact it "stole" Best Picture from Raging Bull, but I'm so glad I finally watched it. It's a timeless classic, that is among my favorite films of all time!

The title "Ordinary People" alludes to one the strongest elements of the film, the reality in it. The film basically follows a family after the tragic death of a son, and the attemped suicide of another son. The emotions, attitudes, and overall conflicts were so real. I truly felt like the film could have been about any ordinary person.

This film is perfectly acted! Timothy Hutton gives an absolutely phenomenal performance for which he received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His performance is one of the reasons this film is among my favorites. Mary Tyler Moore gives a completely missunderstood performance as the mother. It's probably a career best for her and she definitely deserved the Oscar nomination. Also, excellent performances by supporting actors Donald Sutherland and Judd Hirsch. All around, perfect main cast with a strong supporting cast as well.

Bravo, Robert Redford!

Winner of 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor. Memorable performances, brilliant direction, touching, emotional...this is a powerhouse drama film that everyone needs to see. I completely recommend this masterpiece!
Super Reviewer
½ April 28, 2011
Watching this was like trying to go to sleep but not being able to. You're sort of tired but you're still up, but the experience is pure agony.
Super Reviewer
½ April 17, 2011
So over-dramatic and full of cliches that it got on my nerves. Nah, this ain't ordinary unless we're to redefine 'ordinary'.
Super Reviewer
August 14, 2009
How tragedy can destroy what was once a seemingly perfect family is exquisitely realized in this heartbreaking drama. As the story begins, we are placed in the middle of a family in the affluent surroundings of Lake Forest, Illinois. They're struggling to come to terms with the death of their oldest son in a boating accident roughly a year after the fact. Flawless ensemble piece is a stunning achievement of acting. Timothy Hutton, in his film debut, won the Academy Award as the guilt ridden younger son who cannot absolve himself from the responsibility he feels over the incident. Donald Sutherland matches him as the passive father unable to keep his family from unraveling right before our eyes. But the most startling performance of all was that of Mary Tyler Moore as Beth Jarrett who seems more concerned with keeping the facade of a stable family life than dealing with the inner demons of her younger son. It is a shocking cast against type to anyone familiar with the personality on her TV shows. The somber mood is most affecting because the raw emotion of these characters is brutally real. We share an intimacy with these people. Rarely has the aftermath of a child's death been dealt with such honesty.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2010
A great drama with great actors and a great realistic story. I love it, it's one of the best drama films of the 80s, I highly recommend it.
Super Reviewer
September 27, 2010
It was a tad drab. I know, suicide, accidental deaths, chilly relations within a family blah blah blah. Half my class said they fell asleep while watching. Not to say the message isn't important, or that the actual acting and storyline aren't phenomenal. Still snooze alert.
Super Reviewer
½ March 28, 2006
Crushingly powerful film. Acted to perfection by cast.
Super Reviewer
½ July 31, 2007
When Ordinary People ended I was filled with a rage knowing that this was the movie that beat out Raging Bull for the Best Picture Oscar for 1980. Ordinary People isn't a bad movie, but it is horribly dated and for as great a job as she did, all I wanted to do was push Mary Tyler Moore in front of a bus every time she showed onscreen. Timothy Hutton was fantastic and deserved the Best Supporting Actor Oscar without a doubt and the scenes with him and Judd Hirsch had to have been the blueprint for the Matt Damon/Robin Williams scenes in Good Will Hunting. Robert Redford didn't deserve the Oscar over Scorsese for Raging Bull or David Lynch for The Elephant Man with Ordinary People but he did pick it up for the last act and churned out an overall decent movie.
Super Reviewer
½ August 22, 2009
Tough movie but well done. Very emotional roller coaster ride.
Super Reviewer
August 18, 2009
Neato...a movie that was released exactly 10 days after I was born (yep, my birthday this year is 9-9-9), and it won Best Picture for the year 1980. I'd never heard anything about it, but I'll watch ANY Best Picture movie, ever. I wasn't disappointed at all. Not sure I'd call it an all time favorite, but no doubt it was one of the best movies of the year and worth my time.
Super Reviewer
½ May 5, 2008
This movie is full of white people. Seriously.
Super Reviewer
February 8, 2007
Wow, Sutherland, Moore, Hirsch, McGovern, and Hutton all gave such touching and in touch performances. A boy struggles with feelings of guilt, which a lot of people probably feel in one way or another, but which rarely are spoken aloud. Moore is as chilling as some horror movie monster, but I believe she is portraying someone very real. That may be a bit harsh. She plays an emotionally distant mother who tries to keep control of her life by bottling all her hurt over the family tragedy inside herself. Thankfully the boy (Hutton) has a committed therapist, a girlfriend with potential, and a loving father.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
August 31, 2014
"I've seen all ordinary people turn their heads each day! So satisfied, I'm on my way!" I'm not going to reference the John Legend song that is actually titled "Ordinary People", - because Legend is no ordinary black person - nor am I going to reference the more fitting song of the same name by "The Kinks", because I think everyone would kind of like to forget about the "Soap Opera" album. Man, as weird-looking as Mary Tyler Moore looks now, and as weird-looking as Donald Sutherland and Judd Hirsch have always been, I don't know how ordinary these people are. Not even the film's director looks like an ordinary person, although, outside of Hollywood, you might be more likely to find people who look as funny as the leads sooner than someone who looks as pretty as Robert Redford, which would explain why Redford chose to hide behind the camera with this film. Seriously though, I'd say that this was a pretty successful debut for Redford as a director, although, in all fairness, we are talking about Robert Redford, and in 1980, everyone was still on a high for films about brutal family dysfunction from "Kramer vs. Kramer", so of course the Oscars dug it. It helps that the film is actually good, at least about as much as it can be, even with its natural shortcomings.

Though plenty interesting, this film's subject matter is relatively simple, with certain major characters whose intrigue is not truly realized until they really find their place into a tale of dysfunction which has only so much momentum and extensive consequentiality, and isn't even unique. I joke about this being some sort of an answer to "Kramer vs. Kramer", but this film takes from a lot of distinguished dramatic properties in its vein and time frame, being almost hopelessly predictable, particularly when it goes so deep into formula that it loses subtlety. The subtlety lapses are rare, and hardly considerable once they do fall into play, but whether they be within some theatrical writing, or within obvious imagery, they stand overemphasizing ambitious themes, at least until Robert Redford's direction overcompensates for the dramatic missteps. As a matter of fact, I don't know if extremes to the directorial thoughtfulness so much overcompensate for the subtlety issues, as much as the subtlety issues break up overly subdued direction, whose consistency begets flat style and sober atmosphere that gets fairly dull upon find a point in storytelling in which material really falls out. I've already dealt with how simple this story is in a lot of ways, so, naturally, the runtime of over two hours is a little questionable achieved through a whole lot of inconsequential, or at least meandering material whose excessiveness is stressed by its getting to be just plain repetitious, if not monotonous after a while. The film takes so long to get its points, losing a sense of progression that more it circles around a formulaic and relatively simple path in a limp manner that wears you down, almost to the point of driving the final product into underwhelminginess. The film would have made that descent if all of the meanderings weren't punctuated so sharply by solid heights in storytelling which shine a light on just how worthy this drama's subject matter is.

The film's story concept is familiar and rather straightforward in its dramatic momentum, but the themes of this drama are of great importance, focusing on how terrible of an impact a tragic event can have on a family and its individual members, on an emotional and cerebral level that is by no means as ordinary as the victims of these personal turmoils supposedly are. Considering the subtlety and intimacy of this drama, a lot of the effectiveness rests on the shoulders of screenwriter Alvin Sargent, whose script is rather monotonous in its dramatic and structural excessiveness, but clever enough to carry respectable grace, and a degree of subtlety with it, which humanizes thorough characterization and dramatic scene structuring as genuine. Sargent's script is tasteful and obviously inspired, yet it, quite frankly, is not especially remarkable, with Robert Redford's direction seeming a bit more inspired, even if it's debatable whether or not it has more flare. There's not much style to Redford's debut directorial performance, hardly ever even utilizing a score to liven up the thoughtfulness which all too often dulls down momentum that cannot afford to fall too much, - considering the natural shortcomings of the story and the monotony of the written storytelling - but goes pretty deep when it does hit, breaking up a few obvious visuals with genuine subtlety that ranges from tenderly engrossing to piercing. Those subtlety touches go a long way, not simply in establishing powerful highlights in this audacious, brutally realist drama, but in transcending natural and consequential shortcomings enough to resonate with real, honest emotion, and tight intimacy that, as one can imagine, largely thrives on the performances. If nothing manages to save this film as compelling, then it is the cast, and even then, the thinness of the drama results in a thinness in acting material, made up for in the case of Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore through electric charisma and chemistry, punctuated by glowing dramatic highlights that are more recurrent in the lead performance of the then-up-and-coming Timothy Hutton, whose quiet, but powerfully convincing portrayal of a depressed young man seeking peace of mind over traumatic situations, and settle ground with loved ones, is the true heart and soul of this subdued drama. These gifted talents truly bring life to the impact of this film, whose subtlety could have meant its downfall, but is largely realized enough to make an adequately compelling and often powerful final product.

Bottom line, the simplicity of the story is stressed by clichés, a few lapses in subtlety, a number of bland spots in direction, and dragging to storytelling, thus, the final product runs a strong risk of collapsing into underwhelmingness, transcended through the important themes, extensive scripting, heartfelt direction, and strong performances - the strongest of which being by Timothy Hutton - which secure Robert Redford's "Ordinary People" as an ultimately rewardingly sound study on the struggles of dysfunction and facing harsh realities about what can happen to good people.

3/5 - Good
Super Reviewer
January 29, 2014
Redford's classic was deserving of praise. From the score to the acting, this remains a powerful film and likely inspired hundreds of inside looks into how family members interact with one another.
Super Reviewer
December 14, 2013
The performances are genuinely good and I like the overarching narrative, but its hard to shake how frustrating the film gets. Redford is constantly demonstrating, via obvious visuals, how Hutton and Sutherland are separate from Moore and alienated from society. It gets to the point where one wonders if that's the only thing the film has to say. However, I don't think I can entirely dismiss the film for that reason alone because of the unusual consideration that is given to the predicament of Moore's character . . . she knows that she is incapable of love but desperately wishes she was.
Super Reviewer
½ April 4, 2013
One year after Kramer vs Kramer wins best picture another family drama takes it home with Ordinary People. Out of fellow nominees I saw I preferred Elephant Man strongly, and I'm not sure about Raging Bull, but I still have deep respect for this film. It follows a family on the brink of a long built up crumble. I don't really like doing a synopsis, but what the suburban family has gone through was rough. A few scenes once the passiveness was over, had me on the brink of tears. I especially liked the dads performance, which I found like the whole film was genuine. The silent opening credits set a tone, and the film kept its heart the whole way through. The characters became more frank as the movie progressed and the character development was prestige. I felt some character confusion between Karen and the girl Conrad goes bowling with, but other than that it felt like a pure imitation of a family. Powerful family drama, and I'm glad I watched it.
Super Reviewer
½ January 23, 2008
Redford shoots- he scores! (more to come)
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