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A Nuttier Tree of Life

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Arthur might have stolen this one were it not for a cast that inspires you to empty out your bag of superlatives. Beyond Plummer, McGregor, and Laurent, there is Goran, whose impulsive, often beseeching romanticism is both endearing and unnerving: He’s scarily unformed. Even more unnerving is Mary Page Keller, who, in a few quick flashbacks, makes Oliver’s mother, Georgia, a seismic character, now holding back and glowering, now recklessly antic. She’s clearly contemplating spilling her guts to young Oliver about his father but leaves him in the dark. Do modern, non-repressed parents who bare all produce more-stable children? Either way, the kids are probably fucked.

Beginners loses some of its charm toward the end as Oliver and Anna grow too close for comfort—there are long, helpless pauses. But that’s also the point where the title of the movie makes sense. They’re part of a generation, says Oliver, that doesn’t have to hide, that has the luxury to wallow in unhappiness. And they’re relationship neophytes. What a glorious way to end a comedy: just when it has to get serious.

Beginners
Directed by Mike Mills.
Focus Features. R.


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