"Beginners" has a very simple premise: what it would be like to have your dad come out to you as being gay at the tender age of 75. Well, unfortunately, the tender re-engagement between father (Christopher Plummer) and son (Ewan McGregor) imagined by director Mike Mills is about as far away from reality as you can possibly get. How do I know? Because it happened to me.
Ok, so maybe my dad wasn't 75 years old when he came out to me, and maybe he didn't so much "come out" as "pass out with a dick in one hand and a copy of Flesh Pistols in the other" on the floor of our shared RV in my senior year in college. But whatever – the effect was the same. Once the cat was out of the bag my dad started venturing beyond primary colors in his daily wardrobe, hanging out with some of our local truck stop's more talented artistes, and of course shaving his legs with greater regularity than my mother ever had before she passed away from what doctors were eventually able to pin down as a "slot machine overdose."
Other key differences include the fact that unlike the central figure in "Beginners," my dad didn't wait for my mom to pass on before indulging in his non-hetero antics. I had long suspected that his weekly knitting circle and bull riding club were code, but it wasn't until someone started leaving a black rubber fist on our front steps every morning that I knew my intuitions had been correct. You can only burn a rubber fist so many times in the small bathroom of a Winnebago before the neighbors eventually call the fire marshal, forcing you to move under the bridge and deal meth to teenage mothers who need the energy to pull third shift at the local emergency room / Denny's.
I sort of went off on a tangent, there. But then again, "Beginners" tapped into so many emotions and so many memories for me. It was sort of like a fleshy time machine, with the acrid smell of melted PVC blending with the screams of my high school principal the night I walked in on him and my dad "getting me an A" in the back of the local Legion hall. Thank you, "Beginners." Thank you for the rose colored glasses, the very gay senior citizen, and for reminding me that dogs can keep secrets, too.
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