Best Movie For Grownups
Directed by Alexander Payne
Is there any brand of 50-plus angst this funny, tragic film does not dissect? There’s love and loss, disappointment in others (and others’ disappointment in us), personal betrayal and the urge to reveal lifelong secrets — or keep them to ourselves, even when they’re clawing to get out. George Clooney gives the performance of his career as Matt, whom we find sitting mournfully at the bedside of his comatose wife — unaware his life is about to be shattered by a shocking revelation. Through it all, Matt is driven by one motivation: to do the right thing sans whining. Clooney and Payne share an uncanny knack for that wistful smile in the face of havoc — and for conveying the peace that comes from living, from seeing disasters come and go, and from knowing that, one way or another, this too shall pass. We Also Loved: The Artist, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Midnight in Paris, War Horse and Win Win.
Everybody has two stories, says Close, explaining why she persevered for 30 years to film this story of a Victorian-era Irishwoman who spent her life posing as a male waiter. “There’s the story that people perceive outwardly,” she says, “and there’s our story, looking from the inside out.” The miracle of Close’s performance is how she ushers us behind Albert’s guarded expression so that we, too, experience her perpetual terror of being exposed … and share her secret passions. We Also Loved: Ellen Barkin, Another Happy Day; Helen Mirren, The Debt; Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady; and Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin.
The First Grader
Here’s the news from Kenya: Oliver Litondo, a longtime Kenyan TV newscaster who sometimes dabbles in acting, breaks your heart and sends it soaring in the true story of Kimani Maruge, an 84-year-old man who enrolled in a remote Kenyan elementary school so he could learn to read. From his tentative first moments at his small desk to his haunted eyes as he recalls his family’s murder, Litondo’s Maruge is a man who won’t give up on life, even when it has seemingly given up on him. We Also Loved: George Clooney, The Descendants; Mel Gibson, The Beaver; Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; and Kevin Spacey, Margin Call.
A cancer-stricken father (Plummer) reveals to his son (Ewan McGregor) that he is gay. The story is told from the young man’s perspective. But it’s Plummer as the father — twinkly-eyed with delight at his newfound liberation — who gives Beginners its energy. We want to spend all evening with him, and we understand the profound sense of emptiness that engulfs the son’s heart when Dad is gone. We Also Loved: Jeremy Irons, Margin Call; Ben Kingsley, Hugo; Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; and Christoph Waltz, Water for Elephants.
What, your high school English class didn’t cover this obscure Shakespearean swords-and-shields epic? Watch Redgrave’s breathtaking turn as the titular general’s mother, trying to persuade her son not to sack Rome — pleading, bullying, shaming — and you’ll forget all about that guy Macbeth. We Also Loved: Ellen Burstyn, Another Happy Day; Judi Dench, J. Edgar; Allison Janney, The Help; Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs.