Sunday, August 21, 2011
The Greatest Movie Event in Cinema History
OK, well not the movie, exactly.
Or rather, only partially the movie, which was the perfectly serviceable romantic dramedy by Mike Mills, Beginners. Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, a man coping with the death of his father and with the consequences of an unusual upbringing and the unusual parents responsible for it. The story is told with a scrambled timeline, with many scenes in flashback. Oliver's mother has been dead for five years, and his father Hal (played by the superb Christopher Plummer) announces at the age of 75 that he is gay. With a sudden sense that he has no real knowledge of the two people closest to him in life, Oliver struggles to find North again in his world. Shortly after these revelations, Hal is diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and thus undertakes with gusto the business of finally living and, finally, dying. This gives Oliver a renewed sense of urgency, but does little to clarify things.
This story is interspersed with Oliver's ongoing struggles after his father's death, and the scenes of him disposing of his dead father's belongings are touching and sad. The one living artifact from Hal's life is his little Jack Russell terrier, Arthur, who quickly becomes inseparable from Oliver. Arthur is in virtually every scene and he quietly steals the show. He communicates sparingly with Oliver through subtitles and serves as a strange kind of glue holding the disparate elements together.
At a party to which Oliver is forced to go by his friends (who are desperate to get him out of his funk), he meets Anna (Melanie Laurent), an actress and fellow Odd Creature, and the two of them begin a relationship. But these things are messy, as both Oliver and Anna come from homes where their parents' marriages were at best unconventional, leaving neither with a strong skillset in relationship matters. Perhaps Oliver can learn something from his father; not the father of his upbringing but the one who is living true to himself at life's end.
This is all told in a rather Wes Anderson vein, with quirky music and voice-overs and whimsical graphics, and none of it takes itself too seriously.
So why the Greatest Movie Event Ever? Well, because of this.
We saw this film in the most magnificent setting on the planet: Cine Paris is a rooftop garden in the middle of Athens' Plaka district, seating about 400 and with a magnificent view of the Acropolis (which is lit up like an xmas tree at night).
In this setting, George Lucas could have won a Nobel Prize for Literature for his Star Wars dialog. Really, it's that amazing. We both quickly determined that this event was the high point of our entire trip.
The film was fun (though I had a bit of trouble hearing and the subtitles were in Greek, so I plan to revisit when I can), and worthy of a B+ I'd say, but the setting elevates everything to AAA-rated, gold-plated A++ quality.