Film: Ordinary People

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Film:

Ordinary People

Director: Robert Redford
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Paramount

Robert Redford made his Oscar-winning directorial debut with this highly acclaimed, poignantly observant drama (based on the novel by Judith Guest) about a well-to-do family’s painful adjustment to tragedy. Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland play a seemingly happy couple who lose the older of their two sons to a boating accident; Timothy Hutton plays the surviving teenage son, who blames himself for his brother’s death and has attempted suicide to end his pain. They live in a meticulously kept home in an affluent Chicago suburb, never allowing themselves to…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Robert Redford made his Oscar-winning directorial debut with this highly acclaimed, poignantly observant drama (based on the novel by Judith Guest) about a well-to-do family’s painful adjustment to tragedy. Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland play a seemingly happy couple who lose the older of their two sons to a boating accident; Timothy Hutton plays the surviving teenage son, who blames himself for his brother’s death and has attempted suicide to end his pain. They live in a meticulously kept home in an affluent Chicago suburb, never allowing themselves to speak openly of the grief that threatens to tear them apart. Only when the son begins to see a psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch) does the veneer of denial begin to crack, and Ordinary People thenceforth directly examines the broken family ties and the complexity of repressed emotions that have festered under the pretense of coping. Superior performances and an Oscar-winning script by Alvin Sargent make this one of the most uncompromising dramas ever made about the psychology of dysfunctional families. There are moments—particularly related to Mary Tyler Moore’s anguished performance as a woman incapable of expressing her deepest emotions—when this film is both intensely involving and heartbreakingly real. No matter how happy and healthy your upbringing was, there’s something in this excellent film that everyone can relate to. —Jeff Shannon

Barnes and Noble

There’s nothing ordinary about Ordinary People, Robert Redford’s powerful, Oscar-winning adaptation of Judith Guest’s novel about the deterioration of an upper-middle-class family. For his first directorial effort, Redford chose a piece with sharply delineated characters, brought to life impeccably by a gifted cast. Timothy Hutton won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a guilt-ridden teenager who attempts suicide after failing to save his brother from drowning. Erstwhile sitcom star Mary Tyler Moore has never equaled her performance as the stern, embittered mother who withholds love from her surviving son following the death of her firstborn. Also superb are Donald Sutherland, playing Hutton’s sympathetic but ineffectual father, and “Taxi” star Judd Hirsch as the charismatic psychiatrist who attempts to rouse Hutton from his melancholia. Named 1980’s Best Picture, Ordinary People hasn’t dated a bit: 20 years later, it remains a compelling, emotionally powerful viewing experience. Ed Hulse

Related Works

Book:Ordinary People: A Novel

Ordinary People: A Novel

Judith Guest

The Jarrets are a typical American family. Calvin is a determined, successful provider and Beth an organized, efficient wife. They had two sons, Conrad and Buck, but now they have one. In this memorable, moving novel, Judith Guest takes the reader into their lives to share their misunderstandings, pain…and ultimate healing.

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