1월 11, 2012 at 6:27 오전
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By Joseph Kim

As a countdown to the end of 2011, since the beginning of December, reviews of the “Best of” have been birthed through almost every publication. Other critics and reviewers have given their input to TV shows, music, and movies. Always included in their movie lists are Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, French Director Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist, and of course, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Last month even, The Tree of Life tied for Best Feature at the 21st Gotham Independent Film Awards in New York City. Although it’s counterpart was not mentioned in any of the “Best of” lists, Beginners, directed and written by Mike Mills, carefully depicts the silent screams of the past year and two centuries before it.

Beginners first debut in 2010 at the Toronto International Film Festival and was subsequently released almost a year later in the US in June 2011. Eventually, it opened in select theaters in Korea last November and in only a month’s time, it was pulled from the big screen.

The story of the movie is personal and theoretically true to Mills. And perhaps, that is the reason the movie’s dialogue rings so true. As a romantic comedy and drama, Beginners is both quirky and heartfelt, yet does not lack in depth, yielding a sense of intimacy. In one scene, Oliver, who often converses with Arthur, an irresistibly adorable Jack Russell terrier, gets reflective relation advice: “We knew it wouldn’t work even before meeting her.” Alongside the perfectly or painfully humanly chemistry between the ensemble of Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, and Melanie Laurent, the movie continues to joyfully surprise its audience.

Its uniqueness, still, is antidotal.

Before the movie ends, it begs a, or the, final question, which Oliver asks Anna, Laurent’s character: “What happens now?” This ending can be further witnessed in two other movies in the past decade. The first, a movie that was released in the US simultaneously as The Beginners, nonetheless, a fatal and regretful comparison and the second, a highly more appropriate association that hit theaters seven years ago.

Released in June 2011, The Art of Getting By was Freddie Highmore’s first role shedding his boyish charm and innocence. The movie first appeared at the Sundance Film Festival and had poor commercial and critical success. At the end of the movie, Highmore’s character asks Emma Roberts’ character, “So, what are you going to do?” Similarly, in 2004, Garden State solidified Zach Braff’s career as both an actor and filmmaker, receiving critical acclaim and roughly $34 million worldwide. Garden State ends with the question, “So, what do we do?”

Though not perfectly worded the same, interestingly, in all three movies’ the complement female responds with the exact same answer: “I don’t know.”

Without further elaborating on the issues of gender this question-answer has in all three movies’, the movies’ origin can be traced back with Mill’s movie title, Beginners. Reminiscent of Bildungsroman’s, or the “coming-of-age” story, such as Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, the movies tell a story of a protagonist (who is suppose to be a son, according to folklore), who seeks answers and goal is maturity that is achieved gradually and with great difficulty with a conflict between him and society. The genre was created two centuries ago but transparently reflective of today’s society.

Even amidst the protagonist’s growth seen in the movies, the conclusion of all three is a state of uncertainty. Though their end-all is one another, the future is daunting and incomplete. They are their own demise and their struggles are merely self-inflicted. Using love as a platform of commonality, audiences alike further see these conflicts as universal and left to internalize the problems at hand.

Despite the lack of coverage and attention from the media, thousands have been in peaceful protests since September 17th of last year, a movement apparent even in the Korean audience at Yeouido. To many, their cause is uncertain and incomplete. What do they exactly want changed? Are they anarchists? Who is their leader? Questions that have arose much false criticism. Yet, these questions have been solely the individual’s, even before the Bildungsroman’s genre was created. These protests, however, prove that universality does not justify the problems at hand and that in conclusion, internalization is not the solution. Thus, Mill’s beginning is, and can no longer, be the “coming-of-age.”


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