Wednesday July 20th 2011
How could anyone dislike Mike Mills? He makes walls of tiny rainbows. He blogs extensively about his inspirations. He designs the covers of his wife’s books. He directs short films about paperboys. And now he’s made Beginners, perhaps his greatest achievement yet.
Roughly based on Mills’ own experiences coping with the death of his elderly father, Beginners is a sort of quirky-rom-com-cum-metaphysical-art-film that works about a hundred times better than that description implies. Ewan McGregor plays Mills-substitute Oliver (little bit of creative license there) and delivers his most assured performance in recent memory, alongside typically solid turns from Christopher Plummer and Mélanie Laurent.
The film is unapologetically idiosyncratic and for some, the quirky subtitles and use of stock photography might prove a little too I Heart Huckabees, but there’s a refreshing honesty to Mills’ boldly autobiographical story that more than validates these artsy touches.
And whatever your issues with Beginners, the last thing you could accuse it of being is bland, which unfortunately seems to be precisely the marketing angle that Universal are going for. Check out this utterly insipid UK quad:
Fucking hell, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a British film. *spits*
That Beginners should be so horribly mis-marketed is even more distressing when you consider that Mills himself is capable of such lovely graphic design, but rest assured that the movie itself is every bit as bold and distinctive as his best work. And if this — as some are suggesting — is style over substance filmmaking, then I don’t think my tear ducts could handle substance over style.
0.82 out of a possible 1.
ADDENDUM: Here, isn’t this nicer?