|“Beginners” is an entertaining look at the complexity of relationships. As difficult as they are, we can’t live without them, and keep seeking them out.
Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, a 38-year-old man whose father, Hal (Christopher Plummer) has just died of cancer. Georgia, Hal’s wife of 44 years had died five years earlier. After Georgia’s death, Hal comes out as a gay man in his 70s. Oliver accepts his father’s orientation, although he is understandably puzzled by this revelation in the light of his parents’ long marriage. Hal tells Oliver that Georgia knew of his orientation, but when they married in 1955, there was no option for Hal. His parents were successful in their careers, and made the marriage work as well as they could. In many flashbacks, Georgia seemed caring but distant with Oliver, whereas Hal was usually absent, working as a museum director. In his last years, Hal has a relationship with a much younger man, and seems very happy, even as death approaches.
Soon after Hal’s death, Oliver meets Anna (Melanie Laurent), a lovely French actress, at a party. They begin to see each other, although both are relationship-shy. Oliver, a cartoonist, has had little luck with relationships, and seemed jealous and confused by his father’s last years as a happy gay man, with a boyfriend, and may other friends. As an actress, Anna travels a lot and is not anxious to find herself in another relationship. She also has a strained, although never fully explained, relationship with her father. Oliver and Anna reminded me of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johnansson in “Lost in Translation”—drawn to each other, and not quite sure what they want in a relationship. In addition, they both carry lots of baggage with them.
“Beginners” is a thoughtful, funny and touching movie about the complexities of relationships. It suggests that, with so many choices today, we are all beginners when it comes to relationship. The movie implies that 50 years ago, when Hal and Georgia were married, people were busier, and they didn’t have as many options. So, for better or worse, they made do with what they had.
The movie also examines the state of happiness. In his final years, Hal sheds his inhibitions and seems much happier than ever. At the same time, he is not bitter about his life with Georgia and Oliver, and is proud that he remained faithful.
Oliver is reluctant to fully commit to his relationship with Anna. Something keeps holding him back. Is it the distance he felt from his parents in their unusual marriage? Is he still depressed over his father’s death? We’re never quite sure. Yet the main characters are all likeable, and I wanted Oliver and Anna to succeed as a couple.
I don’t know that the movie sheds any new light on the human condition. The fact that relationships are difficult is certainly not original. Nevertheless I enjoyed “Beginners.” It is well written and directed by Mike Mills. The story is engrossing, and the performances are all very good. If you’re looking for a good pastime on a hot summer day, you could do a lot worse than this film.
Tom Condon, OP
Monthly Archives: July 2011
The Dominican Sisters of Hope, whose administrative offices are in Ossining, New York, have sold their 13.1 acre property on Powell Avenue in Newburgh to Mount Saint Mary College.
Sister Lorelle Elcock, OP, prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Hope, and Fr. Kevin E. Mackin, OFM, president of Mount Saint Mary College, were authorized to sign a purchase and sale agreement for the property. After college discussions with financiers, contractors, and the local planning board, the property transfer was closed on July 13, 2011.
The Dominican Sisters, who retain an easement to access a private cemetery on the property near Gidney Avenue, spent 128 years at this site.
“Our mission of education began here in Newburgh, when four Sisters of Saint Dominic traveled from New York City in 1883 to establish Mount Saint Mary Academy,” recalls Sister Lorelle. “Mount Saint Mary College was later founded by the sisters as a natural extension of its mission. In 1973, the sisters formally separated the college from the congregation and subdivided the campus. We are happy that, with this sale, the Dominican Center will be integrated into the college campus.”
Newburgh was proud of its early educational centers, and the Sisters of Saint Dominic were an integral part of that. The sisters’ presence grew, and they built a large structure with a beautiful gothic chapel in 1927. The chapel will remain in the building, say college officials.
Mount Saint Mary College was established a half century ago. The Mount remains the only independent four-year college in Orange County. From an opening enrollment of 166 students, Mount Saint Mary College has grown to serve 2,700 students per year, has awarded nearly 15,000 bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and has alumni in all 50 states and a half dozen other countries.
“We celebrate and treasure our enduring connection with the community here and the many lives we have touched through our ministries,” said Sister Lorelle, who serves as a college trustee. “The sisters forged strong bonds with their students and families, here in Newburgh and beyond.”
In addition to the $5 million purchase price paid to the sisters for the 90,000 square foot building, the college anticipates a substantial investment in renovation costs. The trustees have approved a $10 million capital campaign.
Preliminary plans for the building include a state of the art library/learning commons, which Fr. Mackin believes will be a great asset. The college is a member of the Southeastern New York Library Resources Council, and also has a reciprocal borrowing agreement with Newburgh Free Library and SUNY Orange library users.
“Our primary purpose is education, in view of the vision and mission of Mount Saint Mary College,” said Fr. Mackin. “Our strategic plan calls us to achieve academic excellence while creating holistic living-learning spaces,” he noted. “And our number of resident students has grown. Our purchase of the Dominican property is a unique opportunity to help fulfill our strategic plan, design a better living-learning environment, and add some parking and green space.”
According to Fr. Mackin, nearly 40 percent of Mount Saint Mary College students are first generation college students.
“We need to steward our resources carefully,” he observed. “As an independent college, students and families invest in us to do that. We’re challenged not to rest on laurels, but to improve constantly and build for the common good, to continue to provide ‘Hope’ for today’s young women and men.”
Read more about Mount Saint Mary College at www.msmc.edu
Read more about the Dominican Sisters of Hope at www.ophope.org
From the National Catholic Reporter July 14: “A Louisiana Dominican priest who was found shot to death July 11 at his order’s Mississippi retreat house ‘was a good priest and a good preacher’ who ‘drew the best out of people’…” Read NCR story From nola.com July 16: Hundreds gather for slain priest’s funeral at his church in Hammond. Read more More information about Fr. Ed is available at the Southern Dominican Province web site.
On Sunday, July 10, Sansbury Care Center celebrated its Golden Jubilee anniversary: 50 years of nurturing healing, comfort, and faith in St. Catharine, Kentucky. The celebration included a Mass, reception, and tours on the grounds of the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse in St. Catharine.
Founded by the former Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine (now Dominican Sisters of Peace) in 1961, Sansbury Care Center had its beginnings as an infirmary for elderly and infirm sisters, housed within the motherhouse. As the needs of the congregation and technologies of the day changed, a separate, more modern facility was needed. The new center, dedicated and blessed by Auxiliary Bishop Charles Maloney on July 9, 1961, was the fulfillment of the community’s prayers, brought by the encouragement, courage, sacrifice, and generosity of the sisters and countless friends and benefactors. In his homily at the dedication, the Very Reverend Patrick J. Conaty, OP, declared, “…we know that Sansbury Hall is much more than brick and stone, tall white columns, long corridors, wide rooms, and gleaming appliances of a modern age… Rather, do we find here a holy place, a new home in an old mission, a gateway to Heaven.”
Originally called Sansbury Memorial Infirmary (named after Mother Angela Sansbury, founder of the Dominicans of St. Catharine), the facility included accommodation for the many modern advances in health care of the day. With the opening of this new building, more professional help was added to the staff and, over the years, series of improvements to keep abreast of current standards helped Sansbury to become a licensed health care facility in 1978. The center has continued to evolve since then, as the field of health care itself has evolved, and along the way has garnered the respect of residents, staff, the community, and the larger healthcare industry. Among other recognitions, Sansbury Care Center was honored as the Central District Facility of the Year in 2008 by the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities, and in 2010, Administrator Darlene Herald was named Central District Administrator of the Year.
Today, as Sansbury celebrates 50 years of service, the center houses 59 beds (currently serving 56 residents) and offers hospice care, skilled nursing care, intermediate nursing care, and personal care. It employs 102 people in areas such as nursing, physical and occupational therapy, pastoral care, social work, housekeeping, food services, and administration.
To see photos and read a summary and reflection on the celebration by Sr. Diane Traffas, OP, click here.
To read a brief history of Sansbury Care Center by historian Sister Paschala Noonan, OP, click here.
To read the full homily given by Very Reverend Patrick J. Conaty, OP, at Sansbury’s dedication in 1961, click here.
Story submitted by Karen Clay, Communications Director, Dominican Sisters of Peace.
Midnight in Paris is turning out to be Woody Allen’s most popular movie in decades. It’s not hard to see why. It’s engaging, surprising, and has many beautiful scenes of Paris. What’s not to like?
The opening scene of Midnight in Paris is reminiscent of Manhattan, over 30 years ago. As Manhattan opened with a montage of great images of New York, Midnight opens with similar scenes of Paris.
Owen Wilson plays Gil Pender, a role that Woody himself would have played 30 years ago. Gil is a successful Hollywood screenwriter, in the midst of writing his first novel. Gil has writer’s block and doesn’t know how to proceed with his novel. Gil travels to Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her wealthy parents. Inez runs into Paul, an old friend, who thinks he is an expert in everything. Inez wants to spend more and more time with Paul and his wife. Gil has no use for any of them, and becomes more irritable.
One night, Gil decides to go on a late night walk through Paris, looking to clear his head and get some inspiration for his novel. He walks down a quiet street. As the clock strikes midnight, Gil suddenly finds himself transported to 1920s Paris. It’s like an episode from The Twilight Zone! He meets many literary, musical and artistic giants who lived in Paris at the time: Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Gil can’t believe his luck, and, as a writer, he is in his element. He loves being with these great figures and asks Hemingway and Stein to help him with his book. Gil returns night after night at midnight to be with his new-found friends. Among them is Adrianna (Marion Cotillard) a lovely young woman to whom Gil is attracted. At one point, Gil and Adrianna even travel back to the 1880s and see Toulouse-Lautrec and his Moulin Rouge dancers!
Gil’s late night walks confound Inez and her parents. Her father hires a private detective to follow him. As Gil becomes enamored with Adrianna and her 1920s friends, his contemporaries seem even more shallow and uninteresting.
Allen’s movie is highly imaginative. The scenes set in the 1920s and 1880s are stunning. Allen cleverly introduces famous personalities from the past. Who will turn up next? He leaves almost no one out of the 1920s artistic scene.
Eventually Gil is confronted with the decision: Do I live in the present or the past? It’s the same decision any romantic must eventually make. Do we live in the time we are given, or in another time? In the confusion of our post modern era, many want to retreat to seemingly simpler times. Others want to return to a pre-Vatican II church, or 1950’s America. Is that really possible?
My only criticism of Midnight in Paris is that Gil’s contemporary circle is made up entirely of obnoxious, self-absorbed snobs. Don’t they have any redeeming qualities? This has been a pattern in Allen’s early movies. His own whining character takes cheap shots at the others, while looking good in comparison to them.
Midnight in Paris is not up to Allen’s best movies of the 1970s and 1980s. The issues here are not as profound as the moral dilemmas in Crimes and Misdemeanors. He even dealt with a similar theme of escape into fantasy with his wonderfully funny and poignant Purple Rose of Cairo. But Midnight is certainly his best film in years, and shows that he hasn’t lost his touch. It’s intelligent, witty and sophisticated in an era of lowbrow comedies like The Hangover II.
I’m happy that Midnight in Paris is finding an audience this summer. I think Domlife readers will enjoy it very much.
Tom Condon, OP