Monday, February 13, 2012


Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Christopher Plummer

How sweet and gentle this film is! Does Christopher Plummer deserve an Oscar nod for this role, likely not, but it was a charming turn nonetheless. This is more likely a recognition of his almost sixty years of unparalleled success in theatre and film and his consistently great work.

Both father Hal (Plummer) and son Oliver (Ewan MacGregor) are beginners of sorts. Filmed as a series of flashbacks, the film begins with the death of Hal from terminal cancer. Oliver remembers his father's coming out after the death of his wife Georgia when he is in his mid 70s. Hal acquires a a very young, very handsome boyfriend named Andy (here the adorably goofy Goran Višnjić), starts reading The Advocate, attending Gay Pride, going to gay bars, and, surrounding himself with a supportive circle of gay friends. Oliver, who is by no means homophobic, just seems overwhelmed by the change in his father.

The cold, distant, unemotional man he knew to be his father while he was growing up is replaced by someone who speaks freely about his sexuality, has dozens of friends, is effusive and physical with his lover in a way he was not, is not, with his son. And the look on MacGregor's face says it all - it's not distaste or repugnance about his father's new lifestyle - it's a bit jealous and wistful as in, "Why couldn't my father have been like that with me when I was a kid?" Why does he seem to save all his love for Andy (or Arthur his Jack Russell terrier - played disarmingly by Cosmo)?

Not long after coming out, Hal is diagnosed with terminal cancer and is cared for by son Oliver. The process is painful, emotionally draining, but the men are slowly brought together. It sounds dire and depressing but the effect is not quite that - it is tender and emotionally laden with bittersweet memories for Oliver - not all bad, some just downright odd. The scenes in the past with Oliver's mother are strange and humorous - it's like she is a strange little bird trapped in an impossible situation (she married Hal knowing that he was gay with the hope that she could change him). She's quirky and odd and the young Oliver just doesn't seem to know what to make of her. He is one part embarrassed, one part amused by her public antics.

Months after his father's death, Oliver meets Anna (Melanie Laurent - most notable for her turn in Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds), a French actress, at a party and they begin a tentative relationship. They work through their individuals issues, their conflicted feelings about their fathers. At times the film does feel a bit like a 21st. c. version of Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage ... unhappy people floating around trying to resolve issues, unsure of how they feel or how to be happy. 

Luckily Arthur is there to lighten the mood ... Arthur and Oliver appear to have a telepathic relationship which lends an easy charm to the story-line too. Arthur is like the more hopeful, sweeter side of Oliver's personality voicing his inner thoughts:
Arthur asks his master (after he meets Anna), "Are we getting married yet?"
Oliver: "It doesn't work like that."
Arthur: "I hope so, I like her."
Oliver (wistfully): "I like her too .."

We all do Arthur, we all do. 

Arthur (Cosmo) communicating deep thoughts with his master Oliver ...

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