You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Ordinary People

Calvin - Donald Sutherland Beth - Mary Tyler Moore Berger - Judd Hirsch Conrad - Timothy Hutton Swim Coach - M. Emmet Walsh Jeannine - Elizabeth McGovern Karen - Dinah Manoff Lazenby - Fredric Lehne Ray - James B. Sikking Sloan - Basil Hoffman Ward - Quinn Redeker Audrey - Mariclare Costello Grandmother - Meg Mundy Ruth - Elizabeth Hubbard Stillman - Adam Baldwin Grandfather - Richard Whiting

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081283/combined

A powerfully intimate domestic drama, “Ordinary People” represents the height of craftsmanship across the board. Robert Redford, well-suited for Donald Sutherland’s role, stayed behind the camera to make a remarkably intelligent and assured directorial debut that is fully responsive to the mood and nuances of Alvin Sargent’s astute adaptation of Judith Guest’s best seller. Careful nurturing by Paramount should make this a solid b.o. performer through the fall season.

While not ultimately downbeat or despairing, tale of a disturbed boy’s precarious tightrope walk through his teens is played out with tremendous seriousness, thereby setting it apart from many other recent films trading in snideness and cynicism. Pic possesses a somber, hour of the wolf mood, with characters forced to definitively confront their own souls before fadeout.

Dilemma of the youth, who at first glimpse has recently attempted suicide in remorse for not having saved his older brother from drowning and thereafter proves a heavy burden for both himself and his normally complacent parents, may be too grim for some viewers, but total conviction in the story-telling and performances will grab many who have lived through their own variations on the domestic turmoil here portrayed.

Timothy Hutton, son of the late actor Jim Hutton, is up to the considerable demands of the central role. Unable to slide back into his old routine, he embarks upon a believably tentative romance with very cute schoolmate Elizabeth McGovern and begins seeing shrink Judd Hirsch. Psychiatric chit chat often reps a writer’s easy way out, explaining things when they should be dramatized, and while a couple of the sessions in pic’s middle go on a bit long, device for once seems valid in terms of story dynamics.

At the same time, things go from bad to worse at home. Hutton isn’t convinced his parents, who always favored the dead brother, truly care about him, and the tragedy of this suburban saga is that he might be right.

Sutherland tries to communicate and ultimately sees the falseness in his life in the process of coming to grips with his troubled son. On the other hand, Mary Tyler Moore, as the mother, has centered her life for too many years, on surface values and automatic avoidance of emotion to perhaps ever change, systematically rejecting any attempt to get to the heart of the matter.

Moore’s part is undoubtedly the most brilliantly written and observed, as her distress over her family’s deterioration is seen more as social concern over form and neighborhood acceptability than as result of deep feeling. Backing down from any intense probing, one senses that this woman could live her entire life without ever questioning its basic components.

It’s an actors’ picture, but in addition to his sensitive touch with the players Redford keenly evokes the darkly serene atmosphere of Chicago’s affluent North Shore and effectively portrays this WASP society’s prediliction for pretending everything is okay even when it’s not.

Aside from the curious note struck by design of Hirsch’s office, which seems a bit on the seedy side for chic Highland Park, tech contributions, from John Bailey’s subtle camerawork to Jeff Kanew’s precise editing to Marvin Hamlisch’s classical music adaptation, are all of a piece with Redford’s highly controlled, well-ordered approach.



Popular on Variety

Ordinary People

Production: A Paramount release of a Wildwood Enterprises production. Produced by Ronald L. Schwary. Directed by Robert Redford. Screenplay, Alvin Sargent, based on the novel by Judith Guest

With: Calvin - Donald Sutherland Beth - Mary Tyler Moore Berger - Judd Hirsch Conrad - Timothy Hutton Swim Coach - M. Emmet Walsh Jeannine - Elizabeth McGovern Karen - Dinah Manoff Lazenby - Fredric Lehne Ray - James B. Sikking Sloan - Basil Hoffman Ward - Quinn Redeker Audrey - Mariclare Costello Grandmother - Meg Mundy Ruth - Elizabeth Hubbard Stillman - Adam Baldwin Grandfather - Richard WhitingCamera (Technicolor), John Bailey; editor, Jeff Kanew; music adaptation, Marvin Hamlisch; art direction, Phillip Bennett, J. Michael Riva; set decoration, Jerry Wunderlich, William Fosser; costume design, Bernie Pollack; sound, Charles Wilborn; assistant director, Steven H. Perry. Reviewed at Paramount Studios, L.A., Sept. 8. 1980. (MPAA Rating; R.) Running time: 123 MINS. Original review text from 1980.

More Film

  • Manuel Chiche

    Boutique Distributor Manuel Chiche Offers A State of The Industry

    LYON, France  — Manuel Chiche is riding high. Since June, his boutique distribution outlet The Jokers set admission records with Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” selling nearly 1.7 million tickets in France and still going strong as the film heads into its 19th week in theaters. Indeed, “Parasite” is now the second most successful Palme d’Or winner of [...]

  • Toni

    Italy’s L'Immagine Ritrovata Expected to Take Over France’s Eclair Cinema

    LYON, France  —  Leading Italian restoration company L’Immagine Ritrovata’s acquisition of renowned French film lab Eclair Cinéma, announced last month, is expected to be approved by the French Commercial Court of Nanterre, according to a source familiar with the deal. L’Immagine Ritrovata’s French subsidiary, L’Image Retrouvée, last month signed a binding letter with Paris-based Ymagis [...]

  • Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

    Film Review: 'Jay and Silent Bob Reboot'

    In a film culture overrun by Marvel epics, wild-stunt action flicks, and other grandiose juvenilia, it is often said that the mid-budget, script-driven movie for adults is becoming a thing of the past. But don’t tell that to Kevin Smith, whose “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” a shaggy antic throwaway that premiered Tuesday in the [...]

  • So Long, My Son directed by

    Wang Xiaoshuai's 'So Long, My Son' Earns Six APSA Nominations

    Chinese drama “So Long, My Son” was nominated in six categories for this year’s Asia Pacific Screen Awards, an unprecedented haul that makes the Wang Xiaoshuai-directed film a clear favorite. A drama about separation, secrets, a lifetime of regret, and the consequences of China’s one-child policy, “So Long, My Son” had its premiere in February [...]

  • Alan Rickman

    Film News Roundup: 'Galaxy Quest' Documentary Set for Release

    In today’s film news roundup, rescue drama “Not Without Hope” is back in development, a “Galaxy Quest” documentary is set for release, “The Two Popes” wins another award, and Ella Joyce gets cast. PROJECT REVIVED U.K.-based financing-production outfit Goldfinch has bought feature film rights to Nick Schuyler’s “Not Without Hope” and signed “The Fog” director [...]

  • Ryan Reynolds John Krasinkski

    Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski in Talks for 'Imaginary Friends' Movie

    Ryan Reynolds and John Krasinski are in talks to board the fantasy comedy “Imaginary Friends” at Paramount Studios. Paramount recently won the bidding for the property over Lionsgate and Sony. Krasinski will write, direct,  produce and star while Reynolds will co-star if the deals go through. The story centers on a man who can see [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content