Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – Ordinary People (1980)

Starring Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton

Rating 6/10

Grab your tissues and prepare your heartstrings to be torn, this is one sad film. Like Kramer Vs Kramer, this movie is all about family breakdown, only this time it involves a death.

On the surface, everything is hunky dory. Calvin (Sutherland) and Beth (Tyler Moore) seem to have a pretty functional relationship. They are forever smiling as they go about their daily routine. Then we meet Conrad (Hutton) who is the dark cloud in the family… and fair enough. He witnessed the tragic death of older brother Buck (Scott Doebler) who died in a boating accident. Conny then tried to commit suicide.

Within the normality of his parent’s life he is abnormal. He has just been released from a mental institution and is struggling to go along with the sunny life his parents are presenting him with. Everything around him seems strange and meaningless compared with the torment he feels inside.

Enter Doctor Tyrone C. Berger (Judd Hirsch). Berger is a psychiatrist who gently walks Conny through his feelings, through the night of the accident and suicide and his strained relationship with his mum. As Conrad heals, his family starts falling apart and peace no longer reigns.

This is a great story because it feels real. We all wear masks which are painful to remove. This film explores painful truths that come with a naked face and the courage that this takes.

Hutton is the star of this film. Sorry Donald and Mary but you are just the support cast. Though they give convincing performances, it is Hutton that provides the depth and most of the emotion.

On the negative side, the flashbacks are a little ‘B’ grade but forgivable given the standard of the rest of the film. This was Robert Redford’s directorial debut; an intriguing and bitter sweet little number.

Grab your favourite box of tissues, a glass of wine and enjoy!

Ordinary People Trivia: 

  • Budget – $6 Million
  • Timothy Hutton won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Robert Redford won for Best Director and Alvin Sargent won for Writing Adapted Screenplay.
  • This film provided acting debuts for Hutton and Elizabeth McGovern (who now stars in Downton Abbey)
  • Michael J. Fox tried out for the role of Conrad. Redford had it right with an unknown, otherwise it would be just a depressed Alex P. Keaton!
  • All scenes were filmed on location except for the boating accident scene which was filmed on a film stage… and you can tell!
  • Gene Hackman was going to play Dr Berger but pulled out, leaving Taxi star Hirsch to step in!
Now we’re cooking! Who loves the 80s? Me! And next week is another classic film, Chariots of Fire starring Ben Cross, Ian Charleson and Nigel Havers.
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2 comments on “Best Picture – Ordinary People (1980)

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