Ted Kramer's wife leaves her husband, allowing for a lost bond to be rediscovered between Ted and his son, Billy. But a heated custody battle ensues over the divorced couple's son, deepening the wounds left by the separation.
Beth, Calvin, and their son Conrad are living in the aftermath of the death of the other son. Conrad is overcome by grief and misplaced guilt to the extent of a suicide attempt. He is in therapy. Beth had always preferred his brother and is having difficulty being supportive to Conrad. Calvin is trapped between the two trying to hold the family together. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
All three of the leads have several moments when they "space out", have some sort of a flashback, and then are brought back to reality by other characters in the scene. Beth spaces out twice; once when she goes into Buck's room and looks around wistfully in a sort of trance; only to be brought back to reality by Conrad walking in the room. She has another scene like this when she's shopping for clothes and stares at one item for several minutes; only to be brought back by the sales woman who asks if she wants it in her size. Conrad spaces out and has flashbacks to the funeral when he is riding to school in the car with his friends to school; he also spaces out when he is in English class and his teacher has to ask him about the Jude the Obscure reading assignment, twice. Calvin spaces out when he is talking to Ray his business partner about their secretary. He also has flashbacks when he is jogging in the middle of the movie. And he has flashbacks when he and Beth are flying home from Houston; dreaming of younger, happier times in his marriage to Beth. See more »
The golf scene is set on the 18th hole of the golf course but they are seen leaving the practice green (multiple holes in the putting surface are visible). See more »
Can you ever break the ball?
Conrad "Con" Jarrett:
You can't break the ball. Can't break the floor. Can't break anything in a bowling alley. And that's what I like about bowling alleys. Can't even break the record.
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"Ordinary People" deserved its Oscar. There was such fierce competition in 1980 that winning the award was a real honor. The movie should have shared honors with "Coal Miner's Daughter".
Having said that, the reality of the movie is so heartbreaking and so real that you feel every emotion and understand the characters feelings, whether you liked them or not. Mary Tyler Moore's performance of Beth Jarrett is so powerful that you forget Moore's comedic repertoire and immerse yourself into her persona as a cold, distant wife that can not show emotion for her son. It is disturbing that Beth can not show Conrad love and it breaks your heart when you see the awkwardness as he tries so hard to get any love or recognition from her. Her breakdown scene at the golf course and the realization at the end of the movie that she is incapable of affectionate love are powerful performances.
Donald Sutherland's understated and beautiful performance is brilliant. His making up for Beth's shortcomings as an affectionate human being are so touching. He does all he can to keep the rest of his family together. Why he was not nominated for an Oscar is beyond comprehension.
Timothy Hutton absolutely shines as the troubled Conrad. All you want to do is hug him, love him, after his rejections from his own mother. The torture and pain he is in is portrayed so stunningly. His guilt over the death of his brother and subsequent depression are heartbreaking.
Growing up in suburban America, the film rings many a truth to the insights of what people perceive as a "normal family". The cocktail parties, the school activities, the socialization of Beth and her friends over the recognition of her son do happen in suburban America. Robert Redford recognized every real detail of the facades that people put up and the reality of what happens at home. They are poignantly and chillingly realized.
Definitely one of the most deserved Best Picture Oscars given. Please don't miss this one.
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