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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 10 | March 18, 2007|


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Masterpiece Movies

Ordinary People (1980)

Shamma M. Raghib

Director: Robert Redford
Based on the novel by Judith Guest
Stars: Donald Sutherland (Calvin Jarrett), Mary Tyler Moore (Beth Jarrett), Judd Hirsch (Dr. Berger), Timothy Hutton (Conrad Jarrett), M. Emmet Walsh (Coach Salan), Elizabeth McGovern (Jeannine), Dinah Manoff (Karen)
MPAA Rating: R
Campus Rating: 7.9/10

The movie opens when the family is still recovering from the death of Conrad's older brother, who died in a boating accident. Father Calvin (Donald Sutherland ) and Beth(Mary Tyler Moore) appear to have a handle on the whole situation, but 17-year-old Conrad is another story. Like a disturbed teen, shortly after the incident, he tried to commit suicide and had to go to rehabilitation center for four months. He has still not fully recovered and harbors intense feelings of guilt over the death of his brother), so Calvin suggests he start seeing a psychiatrist (played by Judd Hirsch).

Though it does take a while to get into the plot, Ordinary People is nevertheless a classically rich and rewarding experience. The film takes time to come to the main story, primarily to really get to know these people, so that when the family begins to break down, we have an appreciation for what has gotten them to that point. The focus of the film is primarily Conrad and his multiple trips to Hirsch's office. In their sessions, we begin to get a clearer understanding of why Conrad feels responsible for his brother's death. Conrad's progress suddenly reverses when Karen (Dinah Manoff), a friend from the hospital whom he has seen once since their release, commits suicide. Dr. Berger is there when his patient needs him, and he helps Conrad focus on the real source of his problem. A blooming relationship with Jeannine (Elizabeth McGovern) gives Conrad a new measure of self-confidence. In the end, Beth leaves for an indefinite period after both she and Calvin realize that the love has gone out of their marriage.

The artistic performance of these actors makes it wonderful to watch Ordinary People, and Hutton, in particular, is quite good as the conflicted and tortured teenager while Hirsch is equally effective as the psychiatrist who draws him out of his shell.

This 1980 film won four Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Screenplay adapted from Another Medium (the novel by Judith Guest). It is a very special drama about growing up, family life, marriage, love and loss, forgiveness, and renewal. It speaks to experiences, ideas, feelings, and fears common to us all. In the suffering and growth of the ordinary people on the screen, and helps us gain a fresh perspective on our own adolescence and adulthood. For me it was more of self-assurance that rich people are not happy, they are just more comfortable in their misery!

Till next week…


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