Beginners

November 25, 2014

 

I have a hard time making this film out. It feels confused which I think is the intention of the filmmaker. But it also feels discombobulated, trying too hard to be sophisticated. It is supposed to be a story, but nothing actually happens. We’re just given pieces of one person’s memory, and that memory happens to include a gay father who revealed his homosexuality after the death of his wife. There is no depth to any of the intimate personal relationships explored in the film: between the protagonist and his father, the protagonist and his mother, and the protagonist and his lover. They are assembled as if they are trying to speak but no message ends up coming out.

 

The protagonist is copacetic about his father’s gayness. And he is also copacetic about his lover. It wouldn’t be surprising if he was lobotomized as that’s how vapid his expressions are. We’re able to discover interesting tidbits about the other characters in the film through his void, but what do they instigate inside of us? There are no transformational changes, meaning we don’t actually see any drama take place. We’re told for instance that his lover’s father keeps calling her and pestering her but we don’t know why we should care, or for that matter why the protagonist should.

 

Perhaps he is simply sad? Perhaps this is why he is attracted to the sad actress? I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t know why the father had the personality he had, or how it impacted his son’s life. Again, nothing is actually being communicated with the moving parts of the film. A story is supposed to be metaphorical or symbolic of a grander piece of communication that cannot be conveyed under the fixed limitations of time and space and each of our subjective perceptions. Simply throwing things on the wall and calling it a story does not make it so. Are we for instance supposed to applaud the father for facing his death so carelessly? Are we supposed to empathize with the protagonist for having an eccentric mother? Are we supposed to care at all about his previous relationships or of those of his lover? Does anything matter in this film?

 

These are basic questions that even the most amateurish work answers out of necessity. Call it instinctual to be able to express an idea through an artistic medium. Yet the effort for novelty at times comes at the expense of the utility of art. No doubt the filmmaker was aiming for originality, and no doubt it exists here. But the motion of frames nevertheless needs to have content. The changes that occur within the cinematic space must be able to deliver us something new that we otherwise would not have received. I leave Beginners having my time wasted. If I want to see people who do not know how to live life I can step out into the world. But even then, by unifying the title of the film with its content, I’m stretching to rummage through the rubbish.

 

Grade: F

 

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