Friday, March 05, 2010
Ordinary People: "Everything is in it's proper place except the past" (1980)
Leading male Robert Redford's directorial debut, Ordinary People concerns a middle-class family struggling with the accidental boating death of their oldest son. Calvin Jarrett (Donald Sutherland), a successful tax lawyer, Beth (Mary Tyler Moore), his immaculately perfect wife, who runs the family, and eighteen-year-old Conrad (Timothy Hutton), their surviving son, try desperately to move on with their lives in hopes of returning to some sort of normalcy. In dealing with the loss of his brother, Connie chooses to seek guidance from psychiatrist, Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch). Although set in the 80s, Ordinary People is timeless as it addresses common themes and popular family conflicts. Conrad finds himself alienated from not only his friends from school, but especially from Beth who appears to have loved her elder son more. This scene illustrates the broken relationship between Conrad and his mother when Beth refuses to have her picture taken with her son. Calvin, on the other hand, battles to hold things together, fighting to understand his younger son’s trauma, depression, and guilt. The Jarrets become important people without losing their ordinariness. Redford illustrates lack of communication and the inability to express affection, capturing an American existence that although takes place in the 80s is probably even more prevalent today. The strength of Ordinary People lies in its exploration of family troubles from an outsider’s perspective and Redford provides a perfect portrait of how well families are capable of hiding their inner turmoil. Critically acclaimed, Ordinary People is the must-see telling of a very real and damaged family, winning that year’s Academy Award for Best Picture as well as three other Oscars.