Movie: Ordinary People
Release Date: September 19, 1980
Director: Robert Redford
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch, Timothy Hutton.
Tag Lines: “Some films you watch, others you feel.”
“Everything is in its proper place…Except the past.”
Relevance: I first watched ‘Ordinary People’ sometime in the early 1980’s on HBO probably around the age of eleven or twelve. I used to look through our handy HBO guide every month and plan out when I would be able to watch “certain” movies. Since it was an R-rated film, it was only shown past eight o’clock at night. The best times for me to watch these restricted movies inconspicuously was a weekend after eleven o’clock. I had to make sure I was alone and had control of the television. Most kids my age were sneaking into R-rated movies at the theater or trying to watch ‘Porky’s’ on HBO. I was trying to watch the 1981 Best Picture winner. (As I have mentioned before I was a weird kid. Please continue not to judge.) It’s not that my parents would have cared greatly, in fact I may have watched this movie with my mom. She knew her movies and if she already saw it, she would deem it a-o.k. for younger eyes. But I can’t remember for sure if this was one of those movies.
Nonetheless, I watched ‘Ordinary People’ at a very young age on HBO. My reviews were not stellar that first time around. I knew Mary Tyler Moore from her sitcoms as well as Judd Hirsch from ‘Taxi.’ Maybe I was expecting some laughs. There were none. To me it was just a long, boring adult drama. So I checked it off my list of Best Picture winners to watch and never gave it another thought.
Sometimes an R-rated movie simply means anyone below a certain age shouldn’t watch it because they just won’t get it. There has to be a certain maturity level reached before grasping some concepts. This was one of those movies. I revisited it when I was studying acting in college. I re-watched it with a few friends around the age of twenty. This time around, I totally got it. What was a long, boring adult drama for a twelve year old turned into a beautiful, compelling family drama, with fantastic acting for a twenty year old. Since that time, I have watched it periodically and it has became one of my favorite movies.
Today’s Thoughts: The last four days I have saved a little money on Kleenex as far as not crying during my movie of the day. The last time I shed a tear was during ‘A Beautiful Mind.” (see 350. A Beautiful Mind) That changed today. ‘Ordinary People’ revved up all kinds of emotions and every single floodgate was opened. It wasn’t just tears, it was sobs. A good old fashioned ugly cry was had. Thankfully I watched this movie alone.
At the age of almost 49, there is so much more relatable “stuff” in this movie for me as a viewer; marriage, divorce, a twenty-something year old son, psychiatrist visits, just to name a few. This movie tugs at your heart strings, but not in a sappy, melodramatic way. The situations and emotions are real and are directed and acted in such a beautiful way it is difficult not to be moved.
The acting is simply superb. Timothy Hutton breaks my heart every single time he is on the screen. Judd Hirsch is fantastic as the psychiatrist and some of his scenes reminded me a lot of ‘Good Will Hunting.’ (A movie that will be watched at a much later date this year.) It’s easy to think that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck watched this movie while writing their screenplay. Donald Sutherland is wonderful and was completely overlooked for an Academy Award nomination. That has to be considered one of the greatest acting snubs of all time.
However, Mary Tyler Moore is the actor that I paid attention to the most. This is a tough character to portray as she is often seen as the antagonist of the film. She is a cold woman, who although is suffering from a tremendous loss, won’t allow herself or her family to show their emotions. She wants her friends and parents to think that all is well, when in reality everything is slowly falling apart. The scenes she has with Timothy Hutton are gut-wrenching. This is family drama at its best. If you are only used to seeing Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie or Mary Richards, this role is quite shocking and solidifies how great of an actress she truly was.
I could’t help but be a little thankful for my mom when watching this movie. No matter what craziness happened in my life, my mom loved me unconditionally and was never afraid or ashamed to show it. That is quite the opposite of what happens on screen. And for that, I am extremely grateful.
It’s probably also the reason I used a whole lot of Kleenex.
Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (winner), Academy Award for Best Director, Robert Redford (winner), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Timothy Hutton (winner), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Alvin Sargent (winner), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Mary Tyler Moore (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Judd Hirsch (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director, Robert Redford (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, Mary Tyler Moore (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Timothy Hutton, Golden Globe for New Star of the Year – Male, Timothy Hutton (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Donald Sutherland (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Judd Hirsch (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, Alvin Sargent (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Actress, Mary Tyler Moore (nomination), BAFTA Award for Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Role, Timothy Hutton (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Robert Redford (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, Timothy Hutton (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Film (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Director, Robert Redford (winner), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress, Mary Tyler Moore (nomination), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor, Timothy Hutton (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Robert Redford (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor, Timothy Hutton (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, Mary Tyler Moore (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium, Alvin Sargent (winner).
Ways to Watch: YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, DVD Availability.