‘Beginners’: Son finds out his widowed father is gay

I understand if you can't bear to see one more story of a moping single guy who can't commit, but consider making an exception for "Beginners."

It's about a young cartoonist named Oliver (Ewan McGregor) trying to sort out his own romance (with Melanie Laurent) while accepting that his widowed father (Christopher Plummer) is finally happy.

With another man.

Dad comes out of the closet when his wife dies, leaving Oliver to reconsider everything he thought he knew about his parents' marriage.

His father's sexuality seems to explain why the marriage seemed less that ideal, a memory that influences Oliver's own behavior in relationships.

Were they trapped in a loveless union? "Beginners" is more complicated than that, as you might expect from a movie drawn from life (it's based on writer/director Mike Mills' own experiences).

Oliver has revealing discussions with his newly candid dad, and learns to view the marriage through his father's point of view - a gay man whose limited options made life with a woman who loved him despite his "flaws" seem sensible, even appealing.

Oliver learns to accept his "new" father, his father's new buddies, his new boyfriend.

"Beginners" itself feels new - the idea of a young man figuring out his parents' lives, gaining a new understanding of love, applying those lessons to his own life.

Oliver's own life - that's where the movie got on my nerves.

How brightly must Dame Fortune smile on Oliver?

If we isolate his romantic thread, we see this trajectory - sadsack guy gets dragged to a party where he's basically picked up and seduced by Laurent, who then nurses him through many moods, helps him journey to enlightenment.

She even agrees to move in with him.

At which point MdGregor should acknowledge that the forces of the universe have conspired to make him the luckiest man alive.

Instead, he sits on the edge of his bed and says, "I don't think it's supposed to feel like this."


You lost me.

You saw how long your father had to wait for what has just fallen into your lap.

As they say in the beer commercials, man up.


Directed by Mike Mills. With Goran Visnjic, Ewan McGregor, Catherine McGoohan, Kai Lennox, Mary Page Keller, Christopher Plummer, China Shavers, Bill Oberst Jr., Mélanie Laurent, Jodi Long. Distributed by Focus Features.

Running time: 1 hours, 44 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for language and some sexual content).