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Father Figurine: Mike Mills’s “Beginners”

Father Figurine: Mike Mills's "Beginners"

There won’t be a dry cheek in the house after sitting through Mike Mills’s tearjerker Beginners, but that’s only because of all the cuteness that practically drips off the screen. In fact, you might want to wear a trenchcoat to this pornographically precious romcom masquerading as a poignant working-out of daddy issues. Mills conceived of his second feature, following the oddly hyped but frivolous yawp of teen angst Thumbsucker, as a tribute to his father. After his wife’s death, the seventy-something man had admitted his homosexuality to his son, much to the latter’s immense surprise, before dying himself a few years later. To convey this deeply personal tale onscreen, Mills casts eminently elegant Christopher Plummer as pops, cuddly Ewan McGregor as himself, and Inglourious Basterds’ it-girl Mélanie Laurent as his beautiful French fling, and calls it a day. There’s no denying the chops and attractiveness of this cast, but perhaps that seamless professionalism and charm is the problem: once translated to film, this potentially intriguing age-reversed coming-out scenario becomes the stuff of movie-movie-land. Ultimately, Mills seems to have less interest in finding out what made his late father tick than going through the motions of another idiosyncratic American indiewood product about an emotionally closed off young man who just needs to open his heart to the right woman. Read Michael Koresky’s review of Beginners.

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