0684: Ordinary People (1980)

Ordinary People

Rating: 6.5/10

A true-to-life, based-on-a-book tale about how a family copes after a loss. The oldest son dies in a horrible boating accident before the outset. Something that took me a very long time to figure out as this is never mentioned at all until over halfway through the movie. I’m guessing maybe in the 80s everyone read the book this is based on so the movie makers figured “no need to mention that everyone in this movie is getting over a death, everyone knows that!” Anyway, the character arcs in this movie made a whole lot more sense after this aspect to the story was revealed.

This story is mostly about the other son, Conrad, who blames himself for his brother’s death and starts going to therapy after a failed suicide attempt. I think these were probably my favorite parts of the movie, the conversations between Conrad and the therapist, played by Judd Hirsch, as he helps the boy discover the root of his problems.

I also really liked Mary Tyler Moore. She did a really good job of playing a roll that, from what I’ve read, was quite different for her. I actually haven’t seen another movie with her in it, but her acting in this one was top notch and I’m excited to see her other movies. She kind of took more of a secondary roll after the first half hour of the movie though. All the acting was fine but I felt she did an exceptional job at being someone unlikable, which was different for her.

The acting all around was pretty good. The problem is that this movie struggled really hard to find a point for the first half of the movie. It would have been nice if I knew that there was this horrible tragedy from the get go but even then I think I would still have trouble getting behind the film. That is until Conrad and his psychiatrist start to get to the root of his issues. Which had some really good dialogue and acting between the two characters. I would say these scenes were the best in the movie and nearly as good as the ones in Good Will Hunting between Matt Damon and Robin Williams.

What really dragged the movie down was its pacing. I think I’ve mentioned before that I like having a tight story in my movies. Many of the scenes, though well shot and acted, were pointless story-wise. This one definitely could have at least 15-30 minutes shorter and would have been just as good of a film (if not better).

Why I think it is on the list: Once the story gets going (an hour into the film…) it becomes a very well-made drama about a family after a tragedy. It was revolutionary showing a family drama like this at the time as well.

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