Beginners
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It may have taken 82 years—and more than a half-century of solid performances and memorable roles—but Christopher Plummer finally got his Oscar for his role in writer/director Mike Mills’s Beginners. Still, there’s so much more to love about this charming romantic family drama than just one Oscar-worthy performance.

Ewan McGregor stars as Oliver Fields, a single thirty-something who’s struggling to come to grips with the death of his father, Hal (Plummer). The last four years have been pretty overwhelming for Oliver, to say the least. First came his mother’s death. Then, six months later, his father announced that he was gay—and he always had been, despite remaining faithfully married for 44 years. But just as Hal was starting to enjoy his new life with boyfriend Andy (Goran Visnjic), he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

  
 
Now, after Hal’s death, Oliver looks back on his father’s life—both his repressed younger years and his exuberant final years. But as he replays the memories of his father enjoying his life, Oliver can’t seem to do the same—until he meets Anna (Mélanie Laurent) and he finally decides to take a chance on love.

More than just a vehicle for an award-winning supporting performance, Beginners is filled with memorable performances and lovable characters. Of course, Plummer gets all of the glory for his role as the elderly gay man who’s finally enjoying his life—despite the fact that he’s also battling terminal illness. His is a moving yet often joyful performance—though it isn’t as obvious as some might expect. In fact, in another year—one boasting more stand-out performances—Plummer might have been passed by once again.

Plummer shares the screen with an equally adorable collection of cast mates. McGregor is sweet and charming as the commitmentphobe who finds love with an eccentric actress, while Laurent brings heart and energy to the film as the free-spirited Anna. She’s a welcome addition to the mix, bringing out a different, more fun-loving and adventurous side to McGregor’s otherwise melancholy character. Perhaps even more welcome, though, is Cosmo, the adorable canine actor who plays Hal’s lovably scruffy best friend, Arthur. He may be just a dog, but—like Uggie from The Artist—his delightful personality makes him an important member of the cast.

Meanwhile, though the storytelling may be random and scattered—jumping around chronologically to everything from Oliver’s youth to Hal’s last years to Oliver’s relationship with Anna—it’s never hard to follow. The flashbacks are clearly defined—mostly, of course, by the characters involved. So, while it may feel a bit haphazard, it still makes perfect sense. And the charming story, combined with the film’s well-rounded cast, makes Beginners a sweet and lovable (albeit somewhat deliberately-paced) film about life, love, and the enjoyment of both.

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