Ordinary People - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Ordinary People Reviews

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February 27, 2016
It is impossible to talk about Ordinary People without mentioning Raging Bull. Robert Redford's directorial debut infamously beat Martin Scorsese's boxing epic at the 1980 Oscars, forever cementing it's place on lists of most "undeserving" Oscar winners. But to this is very unfair. Ordinary People is a gripping drama about a family dealing with the death of it's eldest son. The primary focus is on younger son Conrad (played by Timothy Hutton, who also won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor that year), and also stars Donald Sutherland as the father. But the real standout here is Mary Tyler Moore as the mother. Moore was primarily known for her comedic roles, but here she proves that she can not only handle drama, but excels. Is it as good as Raging Bull? No, but very few films are as good as Raging Bull. Does Ordinary People deserve it's reputation as an undeserving Best Picture? Definitely not
February 6, 2016
Raw and human. Robert Redford made a surprising and intense breakout into the directing scene with his first film, Ordinary People. He portrays the story so realistically that for some it may appear slow and boring. Human emotions are so complex and he plays on that beautifully in collaboration with a great source novel. Outstanding.
February 1, 2016
The movie that shows what happens when family isn't there for you (not a spoiler) and why you can't hide anything (not a spoiler).
January 23, 2016
An entertaining and skillful film. Bravo, Bob Redford! Great script and memorable performances by Timothy Hutton, Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore and all!
December 28, 2015
In a film that has all the makings of the standard coming-of-age drama, Ordinary People tackles sensitive subject matter with poise and a rewarding sentiment.
Mainly following the life of Conrad Jarrett (a powerTimothy Hutton), we watch a a regular, suburban family adjust to normal life after the death of one of their children. We are introduced to a seemingly normal, functioning family with Conrad at its focal point, from the audience's view at least. He engages in normal teenage activities: he rides to school in the backseat of his rowdy friends car, attends swim practice, and goes home to eat dinner with his pristine mother (Mary Tyler Moore) and his soft-spoken father (Donald Sutherland). All seems right on the surface but the film's uneasy tone never wavers as the frailties of the family slowly begins to unfold.
The film moves at a somewhat leisurely pace but it is never tiresome. In fact is effortless and allows each character to reveal their intricacies without bombarding the viewer.
The film deals with tragedy and suicide with care, and does not dwell on melodramatic expose. Each character's insecurity is hinted at but it is never too explicit where the audience need not discover it for themselves. Redford allows the viewer to empathize with each character by their own notion and presents the events in a way that shows without telling.
Much of these emotions and complexities are drawn out by a family psychologist Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch) who operates with a calmness and assurance that couples well with Hutton's performance. Hirsch does a marvelous job here as the seasoned doctor who meets with Conrad and evokes his true emotions about his brother's death not by textbook questions but by establishment of trust and transparency. Hirsch and Hutton work well here and the dialogue is natural and effortless, reminds me of a young Matt Damon and Robin Williams conversing in a similar setting in Good Will Hunting.
Another couple that work well together with matching acting prowess is Tyler Moore and Sutherland. Playing the dichotomous couple who battle between acceptance and catharsis in the face of the tragedy, both actors nail their roles as the conscientious mother who struggles to create an intimacy with her son, and the quiet, agreeable father who attempts to find a common ground between the two polarized members of his family, respectively. Tyler Moore is unforgiving and tragic in her own sense as later scenes in the movie reveal but the film never leans in her favor. Alvin Sargent and Nancy Dowd, who wrote the screenplay, never neglect to give each character their own light and allows each character to operate effectively in separate scenes.
However, the best scenes in the movie I think involve the supporting characters. the most revealing instances are between Conrad and his two female interests. It's here we are able to connect with Conrad and get a real feel for his pain. One scene has Conrad meeting with his friend from the psychiatric hospital Karen (Dinah Manoff) and they share the details of their life after their encounter. We can see Conrad's struggle discern his own condition in comparison to Karen's. We can see for ourselves the insincerity of his upbeat attitude and his attempt at normality. Director Robert Redford helps bring vibrancy to the film and we see a part of the story develop rather than unfold. It's at these moments we understand the struggle Conrad face's with his own emotional turmoil and we can see his only two connections with happiness left; although one character embodies happiness in the past, the other in the future.
At the beginning and end, a version of Pachelbel's Canon rings out; a beautiful, grand composition that works as a synecdoche. To dip into musical terms, Pachelbel utilizes counterpoint, or a feature of music where every section plays their own tune at different times, yet the entirety of the piece sounds in harmony. It's a nice testament to the film, where each roles resonates solo and fortissimo, anchored by the unwavering performances of the cast. Yet the true genius of the film does not just lie in the players, but by the sure-handed direction of Robert Redford in his extraordinary debut.
December 22, 2015
There's very little interesting about upper-middle-class white people being angsty and having Big Family Problems, but I guess this did it as well as any.
December 13, 2015
Although the first half of the film is slow and uneventful, the second half of Ordinary People offers some very interesting perspective on family dynamics and loss while also giving good performances from Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore.
½ December 1, 2015
A lot of people were mad when this movie won best picture over Scorsese's Raging Bull. While I agree that Raging Bull was a better movie, the fact remains that this is still a good movie and there are definitely worse best picture winners(Titanic, Shakespeare in Love and Dances with Wolves). The cast were very good in this movie and thus they made the tension between the family members very believable. There are not a lot of drama movies that are better than this.
½ October 18, 2015
The whole film itself is not a particular favorite of mine, being dark and bleak from start to end, but Timothy Hutton delivers one of the finest performances by an actor I have ever seen and is backed by a strong cast.
October 14, 2015
Robert Redford's directorial debut is absorbing and well-acted.
½ September 29, 2015
The film that stole the title from my beloved Raging Bull,
turns out to be a powerfully emotional tale about family, love, and life. A simple and delicate punch to your tear-ducts.
½ September 6, 2015
A fantastic portrayal of a families struggle to survive after a tragedy. Really shows how depression and mental health were a very taboo subject in the past, even more so than they are currently.
September 4, 2015
A match made in Heaven of Hutton and Redford. Hotton's portrait sure do inspire many, who is about to make history in Hollywood.
September 2, 2015
Uh, what an emotional film. This definitely deserved to beat out raging bull for best picture. Donald Sutherland and Timothy Hutton are marvelous in their roles, and Robert Redford creates such a story that seems to lose all hope, even though it doesn't. Magnificent!
June 26, 2015
I've seen it so many times. Watched it last night with Brian who had never seen it. Such a fine film, such fine actors. so understated.
June 23, 2015
Though well-meaning and emotionally complex, Robert Redford's Ordinary People is thoroughly manipulative on a terribly injudicious scale, and populated with self-pitiful characters.
½ June 9, 2015
Robert Redford's directorial debut remains a potent examination of a teen and his family grappling their way through loss, grief, guilt and rage. Alvin Sargent's script only falls into cliche in the way Judd Hirsch's character interacts with the suicidal teen. The skill of both Hirsch and Timothy Hutton rise above that and make it feel painfully realistic. Redford's film is often surprisingly restrained, tightly edited and utilizes John Bailey's exceptional cinematography enough to prevent the movie from falling into a sort of soap opera. But the truly magical aspect of this film's core is Mary Tyler Moore's performance as the mother/wife. Her performance is so brittle and yet uncomfortably realistic -- it often feels too intimate. The incredibly effective and intensely disconnected on-screen chemistry she and Hutton create is so brutal it can be hard to watch. With well over 30 years hindsight is interesting that Mary Tyler Moore never again managed to do what she did here again. It is one of Robert Redford's major feats that he was able to so subvert such a cultivated cultural iconic persona to such potently uncharted waters capturing such a sad and all too realistic depiction of a seemingly permanently damaged maternal relationship without making us hate her. We can't fully understand her struggle, but we can empathize. Despite its dismissal by the film elite -- this movie is uniquely masterful and so much more than a tear-jerker. And, Sutherland plays his role so well --- his character's helpless ability to understand either his son or his wife almost makes his character unforgettably disconnected to point of being invisible. Close to brilliant.
½ May 13, 2015
82% on my Tomatometer.
April 17, 2015
A family film that deals with the aftermath of death. What Robert Redford focuses on in his directorial debut on how death affects us in the aftermath of what we wish should have been then what is. We all go through this time and it is a rough experience we face.
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