by Doug Duke
KCET’s Summer Cinema Series kicked off last night in Santa Monica at the wonderful Aero Theatre and it did not disappoint. KCET affiliate and critic Pete Hammond introduced the screening series which runs every Tuesday (except July 5th) through August 2nd, 2011.
We all had the privilege to witness Mike Millis’ second narrative feature: BEGINNERS. His first narrative feature, 2005’s THUMBSUCKER, was one of my favorite movies of that year. Anytime you can get Benjamin Bratt to do a character like Matt Schramm, I’m game! THUMBSUCKER had a great script, directed solidly with wonderful performances. Any director would love to have a film like that in their filmography, and a first feature at that! The point is: Don’t expect less for BEGINNERS. Actually, expect more. Not to ‘hype’ it up but if you were a fan of THUMBSUCKER and are a film nerd and couldn’t wait for his next feature, I think you’re going to be very impressed.
Luckily, all of us Aero Theatre patrons got to have a Q&A with director Mike Mills after the film, so any questions you had he personally answered. The film itself isn’t an exact biography of Mike Mills’ life, but it is a very personal story. As the minutes fly by and the story goes on, you cannot take your eyes off of it. BEGINNERS is not only full of great performances (Christopher Plummer, WOW. Cosmo the dog, Holy Shit, Seriously), but it’s the story, the passion and the heart that comes out of every frame, every word.
This definitely came from some place close to home and Mills doesn’t hide it. Hal (Christopher Plummer) is a 75-year-old widower. He came out of the closet six months after his wife’s death to explore his homosexuality, as well as finding out that he has terminal cancer. “It’s a portrait of my father,” said Mills during the Q&A. What a beautiful portrait it is. Mills mentioned that six months after his father’s death he started writing about it and BEGINNERS is what became of it. He turned something very personal and real into a wonderful story and more importantly, film.
Not to give too much away, Oliver is recently coping with his father’s death and trying to figure out his life. He meets Anna (the beautiful Melanie Laurent) at a party and they hit it off immediately. The film jumps back and forth with his father Hal at age 75 as he announces he is gay after 44 years of marriage and the battle with cancer. There are also scenes of young Oliver and his mother Georgia (Mary Page Keller is wonderful) which I think are some of the best scenes of the film. The film weaves through three different stages and relationships in Oliver’s life, all of which are showcasing what and who has shaped Oliver into the man he is, was, and can be.
It was a great night of film and a great night to get inside the soul of a great writer and director: Mike Mills. Our thank you goes out to him, KCET for inviting us to this amazing series, Pete Hammond and, as always, our favorite: American Cinematheque!
We cannot wait for the next one!