Oscars Project: Movie #13

(Explanation of the Oscars Project found here. And need I say it? This post contains SPOILERS.)

I think I might be a week behind. Tonight I'm doing the movie I watched last Sunday, and I probably will watch and post on the next movie tomorrow or Sunday.

From 1980: Ordinary People

Summary: Based on the bestselling book by Judith Guest. A teenage boy, Conrad (Timothy Hutton), returns to his broken family after being hospitalized for a suicide attempt in the wake of his (wonderful, hailed-as-Adonis) older brother's death in an accident while the boys were boating together. As he struggles with survivor's guilt, the stigma of past events, and just plain dealing with high school, he starts to find his way with the help of a straight-talking psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch), a nice girl from the choir (Elizabeth McGovern--I knew it was an Elizabeth but I wasn't sure which one!), and his dad (Donald Sutherland).

But definitely not his perfectionist, elist mom (Mary Tyler Moore). Man, she was horrible. You totally could tell Conrad's older brother, Jordan ("Buck") was her favorite. Conrad was the "good kid" and never did anything wrong--and never got any attention. Mom probably didn't know how to process Conrad without Buck as a reference point once he'd died. Peske and West highlight this "Passive-Aggressive Mom Moment" (p. 69):

Conrad (Timothy Hutton): I made a 74 on a trig quiz.
Beth (Mary Tyler Moore): Oh really? Gosh, I was awful at trig.
Conrad: Oh really? You took trig?
Beth: No. . . wait a minute. . . ha, did I take trig? Huh. . . anyway, I bought you two shirts. They're on your bed.

Seriously, WTH was that??? The poor kid can barely sleep, doesn't eat, and can barely concentrate at school. . . and you can't commend him for bringing his grade up? I cheered when she left the family at the end.

What I liked:

--Obviously, excellent cast. Timothy Hutton won Best Supporting Actor. (Oddly enough, Filmsite thought it was wrong to give Best Director to Robert Redford. . . If I had to guess, it was because it was his first movie--and for pete's sake, look at the pedigreed list of losers!)

--The story was good, but the adaptation was even better. Maybe I'm saying that because I saw the movie first, but right now I'm reading the book during lunchtime at school (yes, it's in our catalog--circulated 13 times since 1998! It feels so cool that I can access our catalog from home!) and I can see the changes. Sure, there are some things communicated better in the book, but there are definitely a few scenes that didn't contribute much to the story and were cut/moved around.

--This was a no-frills production. . . about a suburban family. . . and yet it won Oscars. The biggest winner, according to this little gem of a book I found in my library. (First time checked out in over ten years, apparently.)

--Chuck fans will notice that Conrad, in pretty much the only angry outburst he's ever dared to have, punches out a very young John Casey.

What I didn't like:

--No nomination for Donald Sutherland. He was fantastic as the dad!

--Hutton was 19 but played a teen. That's not the problem. The problem is that I've had a crush on him since he played angsty piano-playing cutie Willie in
Beautiful Girls. . . and it was a little difficult admiring him and his handsomeness because he's in high school in this film, and I do what I do for a living. (I know, ew, right?)

--This film made me cry. Sure, at the scene listed here, but also. . . other places. Place I don't want to talk about, really, but. . . oh, parents. Teen years. Siblings. Feelings. Some of that dialogue was spot-on, even though I wasn't in high school until about another decade after that. There isn't enough money in the world to entice me to be a teenager again. At least not teen me, anyway.

So it was good. Upsetting. In a good way. It's a serious film (most of the time) but a great one. See it if you haven't before.

Next up: On Golden Pond


Amy Giglio said…
Timothy Hutton is beautiful. I totally get the "ew" factor though. Have you seen "Leverage" on TNT? He's really good in that show.
Dave E. said…
I saw this one when it first came out and it kind of annoyed me for some reason. I don't remember why, just that it did. I watched it again about 10 years later and had a completely different take. Maybe it's one of those films that took a bit more life experience to really get, at least for me.
Kate P said…
Amy--I didn't know what "Leverage" was about, let alone who was in it! Ooohhhh!!! Just put a hold on Season 1 at the library.

Dave--yeah, I think I can see where it could be annoying. You want him to get better, and it takes a long time. No thanks to Mom!

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