Wednesday, October 25, 2006

[1980] ORDINARY PEOPLE: If you've seen one tale of suburban emotional repression, you've seen them all, right? Course not! Not every messed-up Brady Bunch has Tim Hutton on their side, giving a remarkable performance as a teenager recovering from a suicide attempt and the guilt of losing his brother. Very few have Donald Sutherland as the suburban dad: seemingly the only levelheaded one, but the levelheadedness only masks an inability to help anyone in his family. And I'm betting none have Mary Tyler Moore as their villainous boogeymoms, permanently unable to forgive Tim Hutton's Conrad for bringing shame upon their household with his suicide attempts and his inability to be her favored dead son. Plus Judd Hirsh is there too as a wise oracle of helpful psychobabble. All the greatness of the film is due to this ensemble. I mean, great acting or not, this film's message is just the usual "forgive yourself before you can forgive others" kind of thing. It's just more convincing when you have Hutton dropping f-bombs on the guy from Taxi. Plus Moore's character never quite figures that out, leading to the film's bittersweet conclusion. Nicely done by Robert Redford, and I can completely see why this beat Raging Bull: it's strongly conventional, a real honest-to-gosh Hollywood dramatic movie with actors acting and strongly emoting (or strongly not emoting in Moore's case; she's perky, but cold somehow)--something Oscar tends to reward. (The director's Oscar probably was a travesty, though, as Redford is merely competent in this, or anything else he's done.)

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