Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Overcoming Numbness: ORDINARY PEOPLE

Robert Redford's Ordinary People, was a disjointed portrait of a family struggling to cope with loss. Redford's stunning cast is comprised of Donald Sutherland as Calvin Jarrett, Mary Tyler Moore as Beth Jarrett, Timothy Hutton as Conrad Jarrett, and Judd Hirsch as Dr. Tyrone Berger. I believe that Hirsch's very accurate portrayal of Conrad's psychiatrist provides this film with some throughly redeeming qualities. Sutherland and Hutton's strained and yet tender relationship anchors the audience firmly within the film's narrative, especially in the film's final minutes when both men come full circle to grapple with their debilitating grief. Mary Tyler Moore was the weakest and most unlikeable character in this fantastic ensemble. Her insistence on anger as a manner of managing her grief was believable but completely unredeemable.

Hutton is amazing in his portrayal of a young man lost within himself and amongst the living. The relationship he develops with Hirsch throughout the film truly requires the audience to approach Conrad cautiously, realizing that he is a ticking time bomb of emotion. We, as the audience, have to wait for the final explosion. Conrad and Berger spend most of the film rooting out the societal and familial insistence on closing down emotions, the notion that emotions should remain private, within the individual and/or the family, which in turn prevents Conrad from dealing with the amassed guilt over the death of his brother.

Beth, is an infuriating portrait of a mother. Sutherland sums it up beautifully in his final dialogue with her, stating that she not only buried their son but she also buried everything that made her a woman, a mother, and a human being. The loss of her son completely erased her presence. Her insistence on subtly avoiding and blaming her only living son makes her a monster in the audience's eyes, as we don't meet Buck (the deceased), we have little to grasp in terms of how much she has lost.

The film meanders through it's first hour, slowly building a narrative worthy of it's explosive climax. I think that the last thirty minutes are what pushed this film into the Best Picture category. I don't want to give all the details of the final dramatic scenes but Conrad, Berger, and Calvin find themselves at a crossroads and they all make it across the dangerous impasse to learn what each are truly made of.

Redford's honest portrait of a broken family is beautifully realized in it's characters, and the study of each of these people and all their rough edges make this difficult film an important film to see.

Conrad and the distance between him and his mother.

Final climatic scene between Conrad and Dr. Berger

Calvin and Beth sharing a moment.

Dr. Berger, the most amazing portrait in this film.

1 comment:

  1. couldn't have said it better myself. this movie is so beautiful, and so difficult. it's honesty is hard to bear because it hits so close to home. a wonderful film though, and a great post regarding it!