Shortly after the death of director Mike Mills' mother, his father announced to his son that he was gay, and then he promptly changed his lifestyle and started dating a much younger man before dying of cancer soon after.
Mills, best known for that odd, awkward little film Thumbsucker, dramatizes all of this in his new movie Beginners, casting Ewan McGregor as Oliver, a fictional version of himself, and landing Christopher Plummer to play Hal, his father. The experience is explored in flashback, as Oliver, shy and withdrawn, starts up a new relationship with Anna, played by Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds).
McGregor does the wounded-child thing well, and Laurent is lovely and appealing. Mills has a tendency to undercut himself with cutesy flourishes, like having Oliver talk to a dog who answers in subtitles, but if you can get past that, there's some fine work on display, and the scenes of a young Oliver and his mother are terrific.
Beginners, opening Friday, June 17, at Hillcrest Cinemas, is anchored by Plummer, who, in recent years, has taken on an enormous amount of work and delivered a slew of very different, very wonderful performances each time. He's great here as his character begins a new life and finds a way to be young, even as an old man.
Sure, it's a movie about feeling like a beginner at love and finding that person who makes us feel great about ourselves, and it's nice to see that it appears to be possible, no matter your age.
The Art of Getting By: Freddie Highmore is an awkward teen who gets noticed by Emma Roberts.
Bride Flight: After WWII, three young Dutch women immigrate to New Zealand, in search of a better life. And hobbits.
Green lantern: Ryan Reynolds is the superhero in this week's superhero movie.
Korkoro: During WWII, a French orphan is adopted into a family of Gypsies who are constantly on the run and trying to stay a step ahead of the authorities.
The Last Godfather: Mob boss Harvey Keitel's inept adopted Asian son tries to fit in with the family business. Not a joke.
Mr. Popper's Penguins: Jim Carrey has a lot of digital penguin shit to clean up.
The Trip: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reunite with director Michael Winterbottom for this weird little movie in which they play themselves, experiencing a bit of midlife crisis as they dine together in a series of restaurants. It's slow and strange, but also hysterical and occasionally poignant. Read our review.
Twelve Thirty: A good-looking young man (Jonathan Groff) inserts himself into a dysfunctional family made up of two sisters and their single mother. Double entendre intended.
ONE TIME ONLY
Valley of the Dolls: Classic campy look at the perils of show business. Presented by FilmOut at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Labyrinth: The wisest move Muppet czar Jim Henson made when he directed this film was casting David Bowie as the Goblin King. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Birdemic: Shock and Terror with RiffTrax: One of the most poorly made, poorly acted and poorly written movies ever, complete with running commentary. Should be awesome at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido. Free.
Joyce to the World: Documentary about Bloomsday, the annual celebration of James Joyce's Ulysses. Screens at 1 p.m. Thursday, June 16, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World: The Museum of Photographic Arts throws its monthly POP Thursday party with this look at Hardy's work and his influence on body art. The event starts at 7, and the film rolls at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 16, at MoPA in Balboa Park.
The Woman in the Window: Mild-mannered professor Edward G. Robinson wasn't planning on murder and blackmail when he hooked up with Joan Bennett. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, June 16 and 17, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: If you don't feel like doing the Time Warp again, shadowcasters Crazed Imaginations will do it for you. Screens at midnight, Saturday, June 18, at the Ken Cinema.
Never Say Never Again: Not Bond's best. Perhaps Sean Connery should have said never. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and 19, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Godfather: Not to be confused with the Harvey Keitel movie listed above, Coppola's mafia movie is one of cinema's greatest, and the sequel is even better. Go ahead, let him make you an offer you can't refuse. Screens at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 19, and Tuesday, June 21, at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp.
Two Spirits: Documentary about 16year-old Native American Fred Martinez, one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history, and how his mother was forced to deal with the loss within her culture. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 20, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Smoke: Wayne Wang nicely directed this tale of a Brooklyn smoke shop run by Harvey Keitel, and the cast of characters who hang out there, including lonely novelist William Hurt. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 20, at The Go Lounge in La Mesa. Free.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: The Empire Strikes Back of Lord of the Rings screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 21, at AMC Mission Valley.
The Blob: One of Steve McQueen's first film roles. He's the leader of a pack of juvenile delinquents trying to stop an alien life form from devouring his quaint '50s town. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, as part of the Central Library's Schlockfest.
Shayvision: The Life and Work of Shay Davis: This documentary about the local artist screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, at Alexander Salazar Fine Art, Downtown.
Wedding Crashers: Believe it or not, this Vince Vaughn / Owen Wilson comedy helped usher in the current phase of R-rated raunchiness. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Whip It: Drew Barrymore's directorial debut stars Ellen Page as a teen rebelling against her mother's beauty pageants by falling for roller derby. It's sweet, but not as intense as an elbow to the chops. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido.
Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer: The beloved youngadult novel from Megan McDonald makes its way to the big screen.
Nuremberg: Its Lessons for Today: This new restoration of the 1948 film is an impressive look at the Nazi war-crime tribunals that occurred in 1946.
Super 8: J.J. Abrams-directed and Spielberg-produced, this is a throwback to '80s-era summer goodness, about a bunch of kids who start investigating weird goings on after a train wreck near their town.
The Tree of Life: You might consider Terrence Malick's new movie a masterpiece or find it self-indulgent and pretentious. What you can't deny is its ambition. By focusing on a Texas family in the '50s, led by patriarch Brad Pitt, the director examines life, the universe and everything. Beautiful to watch, challenging to understand, staggeringly deep.
In the Name of Love: Horton Plaza's ongoing Filipino film series continues with this romantic comedy.
13 Assassins: Cult director Takashi Miike's new film, about a crew of samurai on a suicide mission, is more Wild Bunch than Seven Samurai, featuring a 45-minute slice-and-dice fight sequence where the odds aren't good but the action is awesome.
How to Live Forever: Documentary about what it means to grow old and why some of us kick around while others kick the bucket. Ends June 16 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
X-Men: First Class: Another X-Men origin-story movie! Set in the swingin' '60s, it stars James McAvoy as a young Professor X (who has yet to lose his hair), Michael Fassbender as Magneto and scads of other famous actors, like Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon and January Jones.
Yellowbrickroad: Filmmakers try to discover what happened to the population of a small New England town, who walked into the woods one day and never came back. Screens at 10 p.m. Wednesdays and midnight on Fridays through June at AMC Mission Valley.
Bears: This IMAX movie brings you as close as you can get to our cute, furry friends without being mauled and eaten. Screens each Friday at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Hangover Part II: It just gets harder to recover as you get older.
Kung Fu Panda 2: The first time you have Panda Express, it's OK. When you microwave it the next day, though—.
Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen's most charming film in years stars Owen Wilson as a Jazz Age-infatuated screenwriter and aspiring novelist who ends up hanging with the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
The Double Hour: It's one twist after another in this sharp new Italian thriller, until you're turned around so much that no one—not even the characters—knows what to believe.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: More of these? Haven't we been pillaged enough?
Bridesmaids: Kristen Wiig moves from scene-stealer to leading lady in this raunchy girl-comedy, and it turns out she's well suited to the promotion.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams: werner Herzog takes a small team and 3-D cameras into France's Chauvet caves, home of the oldest cave paintings.
Thor: The summer superhero season kicks off with Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of the comic book based on the Norse God of Thunder. Chris Hemsworth is entertaining enough as the banished immortal who learns important lessons while trying to hammer Natalie Portman, but the scenes in Asgard are infinitely more interesting than those on Earth.
Fast Five: Dwayne Johnson joins The Fast and the Furious alums Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson and director Justin Lin for a fast and furious trip to Brazil. Michelle Rodriguez sat this one out.
Water for Elephants: Robert Pattinson tries to break out of his own Twilight shadow by joining a circus and wooing Reese Witherspoon in this adaptation of Sara Gruen's beloved novel.
Boto be Wild 3-D: Despite sounding like yet another animated animal movie, this is an IMAX film about baby elephants and orangutans and the people who love them. Oh, and it's narrated by Morgan Freeman. Collective sigh for the baby monkeys, please.
I Am: After a near-death experience, director Tom Shadyac—who also made films like Ace Ventura, Patch Adams and Bruce Almighty—changes direction, making a documentary that asks some of the world's political and spiritual leaders why we're so messed up.
Limitless: Bradley Cooper takes a drug that allows him to use 100 percent of his brain. Basically, he becomes Charlie Sheen.
The Lincoln Lawyer: Matthew McConaughey is a sleazy lawyer whose office is the back of his town car.
Tornado Alley: This new IMAX film, which travels into twisters with some professional storm chasers, has to be better than Twister, the movie.
Hubble: Leonardo DiCaprio lends his pipes to this IMAX film, which uses CGI and real footage to take a close look at saturn's rings. Just stay away from Uranus. At the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.