Friday, June 17, 2011

Mike Mills: Just Like Starting Over (Beginners)

                                           Focus Features, Beginners, Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor

The elegiac, bittersweet light which graces Beginners is gentle and disarming. Mike Mills begat some of the most beguiling music videos of the last twenty five years, so it was a no brainer that he would pollinate the motion picture bud as well. Though his debut feature, Thumbsucker, was a hipster's darling idiosyncratic pseudo-indie, it displayed both his deft touch with characters and dialogue, not to mention the magic of his musical inventiveness. With his sophomore project, Mills bucks the "jinx" and propels us headlong into a moving picture with true quirk and consequence.

For Beginners is that rare pseudo-indie about family,love and life that doesn't feel forced,artificial or typical. And that can be attributed to Mills gift as a filmmaker, and the devotion and panache of his cast, led by Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent and an unbelievably wonderful Christopher Plummer. The plot as described is rote; old father coming out, dying; young son falling in love(again), afraid of, well. . .love, life, being like his parents.

The enchantment is in Mills' mise en scene, his effervescence at flashback, stream of consciousness and mystical realism. Enabling us to fall into his deceptively simple act is part of his trick. McGregor has never been better, his wounded eyes allocating a hungry heart in rhythm with his childhood remembrances. His meet cute and tender romance with an incandescent Laurent feels fresh. And the always top notch Plummer gets a once in a lifetime role that he runs with, makes his own, makes ours.

The pain and beauty of life are laid bare, and subsume one another whimsically. Mills power to provoke is revealed in the realization that, just like his characters and his film, everything we do in life is just like starting over.

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