Aug 17, 2013

Movie Review: Ordinary People [1980]

Robert Redford's directorial debut Ordinary People is one of the most controversial Oscar Best Picture winners of all time. Having beaten Raging Bull and The Elephant Man, you can often see this name with Crash, Shakespeare in Love and many others as the biggest statuette robbers. Well, I don't know what's going on those peoples' minds, but I hardly imagine better family drama that have marched on any awards.

Ordinary People gives a close and precise look at up-class american family after the tragic death of elder son in boating accident. Movie tells a story of them dealing with guilt, love, alienation and regrets and all ups&downs they experience in family relationships. 

Calvin (Donald Sutherland) and Beth (Mary Tyler Moore) Jarretts were parents to two boys: Buck (who died in an accident) and younger Conrad (Timothy Hutton), who had an unsuccessful attempt of suicide after witnessing brothers death. After rehabilitation in hospital, he returns home with the hope of better days but nothing goes any good. Conrad is having bad dreams, does not sleep at all and his relationship with mother is ruining. Despite trying to distract attention with sports, he can't help strengthening family ties. This is when he starts seeing a psychiatric Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch). 

Alvin Sargent's beautifully adapted screenplay and great directing work by Redford clearly draws differences of main characters. Calvin is a good-natured father, a man loving his family and doing everything to keep them together. He is strong, at least seems to be extremely strong when trying to restart life and give an example of bravery to his living son and wife. He is the one who always listens to both of them and makes every attempt to avoid conflicts. Beth, on the contrary, is less in control of herself. She is the one who did not even cried on funeral of her loveliest son. But since then, she does her best to save family reputation and unity, on her own way. You can't say that Beth does not love Conrad but she's never been good at proving it. That is why Conrad thinks mother hates him, because of what he did - thing that has been keeping him awaken for a long time. He is the most vulnerable one who's experienced harsh psychological suffer lately. Conrad does not deal with it well. Guilt is not easy thing to deal with.

I'd love to say once more that Ordinary People is one of the most extraordinary family dramas I've ever seen. It is brilliant in every sense a movie can. Screenplay is one of most perfectly adapted novels of all time, bringing a true, very natural, smart and interesting dialogues. Having never read the original story itself, I am still pretty sure that this movie is what it was supposed to be. It's one type a film, which does not have culminations, emotional explosions and many other stuff any drama has. It is flat, steady and very quiet picture, as if you are watching a life of your neighbors from your back window. That's what makes this movie masterpiece - you never lose feeling of watching reality. And all these easily comes down to pure emotions and attractions towards the whole plot.

But you know what is more extraordinary? A massive, phenomenal cast. Timothy Hutton who won his the only Oscar for this role at the age of 20 gives one of the finest performances of all time. Each episode of him being with psychiatric is highest caliber act. Everything about him is perfect - Conrad being mad, Conrad being confused, Conrad feeling guilty, Conrad falling in love, Conrad fighting with mother. I just watched it and could not articulate my excitement about his performance. But frankly, his nominations as a supporting actor is the biggest category fraud I've seen, Hutton is so totally lead.

Judd Hirsch gives an amazing performance as Dr. Berger. Probably the best of his career. And if Timothy was nominated for lead, he would take a trophy home in 1981. And Mary Tyler Moore is no less good as others as a bitter, emotionally devastated mother who is trying to preserve relationship with family. Dinald Sutherland who is the only one without Oscar nominations, is as great as others. They all make a perfect cast, which brings a lot enjoyment to watch.

Ordinary People is also one of the best debut films of all time, just because of amazing directing work by Robert Redford who brought these amazing material to the screen in the best imaginary way anyone could think. This movie feels so live and real that only really good director is capable of doing this.

Before I conclude, I'd say that American Beauty another Oscar Best Picture winner about 20 years later tells a very similar story of family drama, desperation and separation. So, if you are into Sam Mendes's masterpiece, you definitely want to check this out. But anyway, Ordinary People is the most recommended movie by me, so far.



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