Minority Report

Time is running short, but I'm making good progress on the Oscar checklist. Thanks to some tortilla soup and a wine-fueled double-feature at a friend's house, two more movies have been knocked off the list. Both of them ostensibly deal with the trials and tribulations of people forced to live outside of the mainstream, though only one actually focuses on that.

Naturally enough, we began with Beginners. Every single thing I had heard about this movie before I saw it dealt with Christopher Plummer's character, who comes out in his seventies as a gay man. Plummer is deservedly a lock for an Oscar nomination, and although I knew it would be in the Supporting Actor category, I was surprised by how little his role actually amounts to in the movie. Beginners may feature a man coming to terms with his new, public sexual identity, but the movie is really about his son (Ewan McGregor), stumbling towards happiness with a woman as aimless and melancholy as he is.

It was a very intriguing movie, from the shifting chronology to the dog whose thoughts are subtitled, and I get the feeling that I'll appreciate it more every time I think about it. Anyone who went in based on the marketing, though, will find that this isn't the film they thought they were getting.

The second movie we tackled was The Help, which could almost qualify for Pop Culture Homework status. Everyone had either read the book, seen the movie, or both. Articles questioning how uplifting for the African-American community this movie claims to be began to pop up. I listened to all the conversations about this story without reading or seeing it for myself. I finally did see it, and I have to say, I'm kind of on the naysayers' side.

It's not that the movie didn't succeed in several aspects. The actresses (Viola Davis, in particular) did an extremely admirable job. I laughed when I was supposed to laugh, and felt tugs of emotion when I was supposed to feel tugs of emotion. The problem is that the strings doing the tugging were glaringly visible. There is barely a whisper of subtlety to this story. Everyone good is angelically heroic, and everyone bad may as well have had a Snidely Whiplash Mustache of Evil. Every bit of this movie is, if you'll forgive the term, painted in black and white.

Not to give away too much of the ending, but the movie concludes on a note of auspicious promise for the future. When you take a giant step back and really look, though, the majority of the characters are worse off than when the story began. The Help is a morality tale about the horrors of racism, and while every character learns a lesson, only the spunky white women profit from it.

Beginners: B+
The Help: C


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