Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Review of Robert Redford's "Ordinary People"

I know it's been awhile since I've posted, but I have a good excuse. My computer is broken and I'm forced to use the one at work for my trifles. Anyway, I've just finished watching and writing a very mean review for Robert Redford's 1980 puke-fest, "Ordinary People." Here it is:


It's hard to know where to start on this piece of cinema garbage. I met Judith Guest once (she's from my home state), and you might think that that encounter would have sweetened my attitude going into this viewing. But when I see a film that's so bad on nearly every level, like "Ordinary People" is, no amount of charm on the part of the writer can sway me.

I think the music in the film is a good place to start. Pachelbel's tedious, boring "Canon in D Major," placed like heavy stone bookends at the beginning and conclusion of the movie, exemplifies the rhythmic, repetitious, gag-worthy melodrama of the story, and its association with high society fits the well-worn pants of the "rich people with problems" scenario from which this film can't seem to get away.

The cinematography is serviceable, but by no means is it innovative or even especially beautiful. Neither is the sound used in any new or meaningful way.

One might argue that camerawork and audio engineering were made simple with the intent of focusing attention on the story or the performances. But what story? The whiny, self-indulgent, tennis sweater-donning tragedy of a well-to-do family on the rocks? Or maybe director Robert Redford wanted us to concentrate on the high school-level psychology the film throws at us like an afternoon PSA.

To be kind, the performances, save for that of the always austere and dignified Donald Sutherland, are flaccid and contrived at best. Mary Tyler Moore is especially bad as she begins to pack her suitcase and breaks down crying, and it's clear that she is being coached by someone offscreen as her face twitches around and her eyes keep focusing on an unidentified point.

The fact that "Ordinary People" stole the Academy's "Best Picture" award in 1980 from both "Raging Bull" and "The Elephant Man"--undoubtedly two of the best films in Hollywood history--will go down as one of the all-time greatest crimes against cinema, not only because those two films are better than this one, but because this one is so very bad.


I should also note, if only for personal recording, that today is my 20th birthday. I have work for six hours and then class for six hours. Happy birthday, uh-huh.

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