Sunday, April 19, 2015
It's 1999. Hal Fields, a retired art historian, loses his wife of 44 years, tells the world he's gay, buys a new wardrobe, subscribes to The Advocate, takes a young lover, makes new friends, goes clubbing, grows closer to his son, finds out he has cancer, lives it up, and dies in 2003.
That's pretty much the first 10-minutes of the film.
As for the rest of the hour and a half, we play with time. Look at life from the 40s to the early Otts, how people are shaped by history, circumstance, society, parents, personal instincts and inclinations, longing and desire.
It's a film about connections -- between father and son, husband and wife, friend and friend, man and man, man and woman, and people and dogs. Yes, a dog definitely has a co-starring role here -- he's kind of a Greek Chorus with subtitles. Don't worry, it's not twee, not for a moment. Most of all, the story explores communication in all its forms -- laughing, playing, drawing, gestures, sexuality, silence, talking, barking, crying, writing, staying, leaving.
It's a film about the internal and eternal struggle between sharing who we are versus protecting who we are, a struggle determined both by place and time -- where we are and when we're there. And the courage to seek a place in the sun.
Not a comedy or drama, "Beginners" is humanity with humor. Streams on Netflix. Probably elsewhere, as well.
PS: You'll wonder where Christopher Plummer has been all our movie-going life.