I think whoever was in charge of marketing Beginners was a bit of a genius. As far as I can tell, the film is being punted that it’s the bitter-sweet story of Hal, a widowed 75 year old Museum Director, who comes bursting out of the closet after the death of his wife. It is that: this part is the tale of the writer-director Mike Mill’s own father. Yet really, Beginners is all about Hal’s son Oliver – winningly played by Ewan McGregor – and his French actress girlfriend (Melanie Laurent) who try to find each other through the damage wrought on them by their emotionally problematic, if not quite abusive, parents. I’m not complaining. I wouldn’t have rushed, probably, to see Ewan McGregor in a romantic drama. But the gay theme provides an interesting kick and a backdrop, and all in all, perhaps because it’s so personal, it’s a thoroughly engaging, moving, marvellous piece of entertainment.
Locations-wise, it’s all LA, all the time. The Biltmore – where I suffered through jetlag on my very first trip to LA way back when – is where the actress is staying when she first meets Oliver, but the most striking location is the Richard Neutra Lovell Health House, which stars, literally, as Hal’s designer home. LA Times (of course) has a really great story about how this unique space was made film-ready.