Ordinary People (1980)

Just recently, we embarked on a quest to watch all the Best Picture winners. I knew on this quest there would be many questionable picks since my film tastes only go back a handful of decades. Older movies, especially pre technicolour, have never been my cup of tea, so with most of the newer releases covered already, it was time to start knocking down the ones time may have forgotten.

Today’s post is Ordinary People, which won Best Picture in 1980, two years before I was born. Although he is not in the movie or the lead actor, Robert Redford took home the Oscar for Best Director in his debut behind the lens. He didn’t need to do any heavy lifting as his main cast did all the talking for him. Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland, and Timothy Hutton star in what I have decided to be the absolute most boring Best Picture ever. I know I still got 37 films to watch as of this writing, but Ordinary People could have put an insomniac to sleep.

Nothing happens in this movie as we just follow our three main characters around in their daily lives as they continue to cope with their oldest son’s death and the attempted suicide of their youngest son. A lot of the movie takes place in a physiologists office and is probably 98% dialogue-driven. Yes, there are some swimming sequences because Hutton’s character Conrad was on the swim team. In some dream flashbacks, we see the survivor’s guilt that is holding Conrad back from being normal again. Other than those brief moments, every other second is just talking to each other, whether rudely, politely, or business-like. It was rather boring.

There are not too many projects that Redford is associated with that I dislike. The same could be said about Sutherland’s other works; however, I refuse to support this particular project in any way. If you read my Annie Hall review recently, you’ll know how much I absolutely hated that movie. Those reasons are quite different with Ordinary People since it’s not the characters who suck. The film features a pretty good story, one I can see the Academy and the general people relating to. I am not here to mock the trauma these characters have to struggle with; I’m only here to say they probably didn’t need a motion to share with the world.

Ordinary People faired pretty well at the Oscars, collecting four statues on six nominations. My only problem with the accolades this film won is based on its competition. In no alternate universe would Ordinary People have beat out Raging Bull. Robert DeNiro will forever be associated with The Godfather saga, but Raging Bull will always be his early career-defining performance. Even The Coal Miner’s Daughter, which I still haven’t seen, deserved to win it all over Ordinary People, which was pretty ordinary, to say the least. 2/10


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