Friday, March 4, 2011

659. Ordinary People (1980)

Running Time: 124 minutes
Directed By: Robert Redford
Written By: Alvin Sargent, from novel by Judith Guest
Main Cast: Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton, Judd Hirsch, Elizabeth McGovern


I know, I know...I should have watched this last week when I was watching all of the Best Picture winners, but I didn't really plan on watching it. My wife got this from Netflix and noticing that it was in the book, I decided to join her. Allow me to join the millions who say, "This should not have beaten Raging Bull at the Oscars!"

The film focuses in on your typical, run of the mill, American family, except the untypical thing about this family is that they've just lost their son, Buck, in a boating accident. The remaining members of the tribe are father Calvin (Sutherland), mother Beth (Moore) and remaining son Conrad (Hutton) and the trio make up the Jarrett family. We soon learn, upon the films opening, that Conrad has recently tried to take his own life, but fortunately failed. The film rolls along smoothly introducing the characters and their attitudes. Calvin is eager to help his son overcome his depression, while Beth doesn't seem to care too much about her troubled son, just so the house is in order and everyone can put on a happy facade when faced by friends. Conrad suffers from a recurring dream, taking him back every night to the night that his brother drowned in the boating accident and the night he survived it. Eventually and to the delight of Calvin, Conrad begins seeing a psychiatrist named Dr. Berger (Hirsch). The two meet for quite some time, before Berger eventually breaks through to Conrad and reveals to him that his is need of forgiveness...for himself. In the meantime, Conrad has quit the swim team at school, tried desperately to get his mother's attention and started dating a girl.


No, "Ordinary People" shouldn't have beaten "Raging Bull" at the Oscars, in neither the Best Picture or Best Director categories, but that's not to say that "Ordinary People" is a bad film. It's just to say that "Raging Bull" is a better film. I did have a few gripes though, which we'll ultimately get to.

First, the positives. I'm really starting to like Donald Sutherland and while I haven't watched any other films from him so far, for the "1001" book, there's plenty in there and hopefully we'll get to them sooner, rather than later. In fact, I thought the whole cast did a fine job and he knew Mary Tyler Moore and Judd Hirsch had it in them to garner Academy Award nominations and be deserving of them. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love Judd Hirsch...I'm just more used to him playing Alex Rieger than a shrink. Enough about the cast. The think I really found interesting about "Ordinary People" was the character study. I thought it was interesting how Beth Jarrett seemed to completely close her eyes and ears to the problems around her and want only to be surrounded with pleasantries. Calvin Jarrett somewhat wanted the things that Beth wanted, but wanted to confront their problems as well. I know people like this, and while I can't put my finger on who, I just felt like I was watching real people. I also found it interesting that Conrad seemed to push his father away, yet tried his best to talk to his mother and get her attention and make her be interested in him. It was interesting because Calvin was the one who WAS interested in Conrad and Beth was the one who really didn't want anything to do with him, yet he reacted to them in the opposite way.

I loved the film's use of Pachelbel's Canon, yet didn't like some of the scenes that they played it over. Having it playing at the beginning was great. But there were some scenes, where Canon would start playing, seemingly for no reason. Also I thought the story was a little dry. Yes, it was good and it was like watching real people play out their most horrific time period as a family, but there really doesn't seem to be any climax to this movie. The entire movie, everyone does their bit. Conrad is the disturbed one, Calvin is the loving one and Beth is the hard ass and in the end, Beth doesn't change her ways, she just moves out. In the end, Conrad gets better, but we barely see him well, because it happens so late in the film. And Calvin doesn't change either, other than separating from Beth. It just seemed to lack some big scene, for example, Beth finally breaking down and crying her eyes out over Buck and realizing the fact that she's been pushing her living son away or, and I don't mean to be grim, Conrad trying to commit suicide again. I don't know, the film was a good one and it provided a sincere, yet not always beautiful into the home of an upper class family, but it just seemed to lack somewhere, mainly in that it seemed to be missing some vital scenes that could've catapulted this one into TOP 20 caliber status.

RATING: 7/10 Like I said, not bad AT ALL, but I definitely had a few issues with it.


March 4, 2011 3:54pm

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