Beginners is an expert level love story. Director Mike Mills’ latest movie follows 38-year-old Oliver (Ewan McGregor), whose father comes out of the closet shortly after a long heterosexual marriage and shortly before dying of cancer. Lonely and trying to make sense of the family life he’s lost, his only motivations are to create hilariously depressing sketches and graffiti or talk to his jack russel terrier. Then comes Anna, an actress played by actress Melanie Laurent. She’s someone to roller skate through hotel hallways with, but a relationship is a tall order for the two masters of self-sabotage. A good romance captures all the realistic quirks and nuances between two people. This one achieves that and more by addressing the interplay of love with the whole of one’s rich and traumatic life separate from that love.
The way that Anna and Oliver first meet is a perfect metaphor: They are introduced at the costume party of life, stand together before the bathroom mirror of interpersonal exploration, take off their wigs, and sooner or later get to make out.
McGregor does the whole lovable sad-sack thing well, looking cute even in a Sigmund Freud Halloween costume. And Laurent is entirely sexy in that unwashed-hair- and-little-makeup kind of way. You can tell the director was obsessed because there was one of those montages that’s just a series of tight shots of her earlobes and ankles and stuff (500 Days of Summer, anyone?). Can’t blame him. Her allure, like that of the movie, is in its refusal to be overdone.
Beginners opens Friday and will be playing at the Arbor and Alamo South.
Here are a few things Anna would dig:
Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray, $23
Mary Green “Pascal” silk georgette kimono robe, $110
Fred Flare hotel key necklace, $14.99
Madewell summer henley, 39.50