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Beginners: movie review

Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor square off as father and son in 'Beginners,' a quirky drama with poignant depth.

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Christopher Plummer (l.) and Ewan McGregor are shown in a scene from 'Beginners.'

Focus Features/AP

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Critics are supposed to criticize the movie before them and not the movie they wish they had seen instead. Easier said than done. Case in point: “Beginners,” a film starring Christopher Plummer as Hal, a widower who, in his 70s, comes out to his startled son, Oliver (Ewan McGregor).

This is a fresh idea for a film, and apparently, according to the film’s writer-director Mike Mills, it’s also semi-autobiographical. With actors like Plummer and McGregor playing off each other, I was psyched for something good.

Beginners” isn’t bad, exactly, but Mills focuses much less on the father-son stuff than on Oliver’s off-and-on liaison with a pretty French actress (Mélanie Laurent, of “Inglourious Basterds”). He juggles time frames, invoking Oliver’s memories of his mother. All of this has its value, but Plummer, in rollicking good form, without a shred of sentimentality, is primed for greatness, and Mills keeps cutting away from him just when things are getting interesting.

“Beginners” is a case study in missed opportunities. Grade: B- (Rated R for language and some sexual content.)

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