7.8/10
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291 user 54 critic

Ordinary People (1980)

The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son.

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Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
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3,313 ( 356)

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Won 4 Oscars. Another 15 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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...
...
...
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Swim Coach
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...
Karen
...
Joe
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Ray (as James B. Sikking)
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Sloan
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Ward (as Quinn Redeker)
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Audrey
Meg Mundy ...
Grandmother
Elizabeth Hubbard ...
Ruth
...
Stillman
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Storyline

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 <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

some films you watch, others you feel. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

26 February 1981 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Gente como uno  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$54,800,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Ordinary People is on the list of the most banned books in school libraries. With its graphic sex scenes, graphic discussion of suicide, and graphic language, it remains very controversial in schools. In fact, this book was the 52nd most challenged book in schools and libraries from 1990 to 1999, narrowly beating out #53, American Psycho. See more »

Goofs

When Conrad lies down on his bed before calling Jeannine, there is a bulletin board behind his head, on the wall above the bed. The bulletin board is missing in all other bedroom scenes, both before and after this scene. Also, taking these scenes at face value, Conrad's bedroom is maybe 5 or 6 yards wide with windows on opposite walls. None of the front or back exterior shots of the house show a space that could include this room configuration. See more »

Quotes

Jeannine: Conrad, I'm not a very good bowler, what I mean is, I'm a funny bowler.
Conrad "Con" Jarrett: Oh, well we don't have to go bowling if you'd rather not. How funny are ya?
Jeannine: On a scale of one to ten... about a ten.
Conrad "Con" Jarrett: Oh... yeah, that's pretty funny.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Top Gear: Episode #22.2 (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

Canon in D major
Composed by Johann Pachelbel
Arranged for mixed voices by Noel Goemanne
Additional arrangement by Jean-François Paillard (as Jean-Francois Paillard)
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User Reviews

 
Beautiful script, characters, and flawless filmmaking. A movie not to forget. **** (out of four)



As an aspiring screenwriter myself, I envy Alvin Sargent, the mastermind behind the script of the Academy Award winning 1980 drama "Ordinary People." Based on the equally as heartbreaking novel by Judith Guest, "Ordinary People" flawlessly captures all aspects of great cinema. The scenes have the perfect timing; the performances are vividly descriptive and entirely convincing; the direction is efficacious and focused. The filmmaker's never pretend that this movie is easy to watch, but they sure do produce an emotional and mental response from the viewer.

"Ordinary People" launched Timothy Hutton's career, rewarding him with an Oscar. It's too bad his career as an actor seems to be traveling downhill. Although his award was for best actor in a supporting role, he is truly the center of the movie. Hutton plays Conrad Jarrett, the son of Calvin (Donald Sutherland) and Beth (Mary Tyler Moore). The Jarretts are recovering over various recent disasters. They lost their first born son to an accident, for which Conrad blames himself. His grief eventually provokes a failed suicide attempt.

As the movie opens, we meet the family. We never witness Conrad's suicide attempt, the preceding family death, nor do we see anything than happens during his hospital stay. "Ordinary People" knows exactly where to start and what to show. It leaves a great deal to our imagination. It gives us freedom to put ourselves in the character's shoes. This is a realistic portrayal of a crippled family trying to mend with problems.

Several key characters also contribute to the rehabilitation of Conrad. Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch), provides Conrad with psychological guidance; the high school swimming coach (E. Emmet Walsh) understands Conrad's condition, but still doesn't want the swim team to lose his talent; Jeannine (Elizabeth McGovern) befriends the struggling Conrad; Karen (Dinah Manoff) another similarly hospitalized with Conrad, gives him some added confidence.

"Ordinary People" took home Academy Awards for best picture, director, supporting actor, adapted screenplay, Mary Tyler Moore's deserving performance, and earned various other nominations, including the supporting performance by Judd Hirsch. It is clear why the film won so much praise by critics and audiences alike: we can clearly identify with the characters and their situation.

The characters are beautifully written. I cannot remember the last movie I saw that so vividly captures individual lifestyles and personal tragedies. Every character plays an important role in Conrad's life. His father feels his son's suicide attempt is due to his poor parenting. The materialistic mom finds it difficult to contend with difficulties and to forgive her son for what he did to her public image. Conrad's problems evolve into larger, more complex issues of love, compassion, forgiveness, and our personal differences.

The actors really deserve the crown here. If there was even one who did not live up to the great expectations, they would appear obvious and subtract from the film's emotional grasp. Timothy Hutton really portrays his character well. Every emotional aspect feels real, justified, and understood. Mary Tyler Moore portrays the film's potential villain believably as well. She makes is obvious that Beth would rather run from problems instead of dealing with them. After seeing Donald Sutherland in many recent film's that seem rather terse, I formed opinions about his credibility and ability that his performance here proves wrong. He is definitely a gifted actor when dealt good material. In this performance, easily the best of his career, he captures every minuet detail of a father struggling with his past, present, and future.

"Ordinary People" shares much in common with 1999's best picture winner, "American Beauty." That was another great film, but "Ordinary People" contains debatably better material. "American Beauty" looked tragedy in the eye and found respect, mockery, and grace. "Ordinary People" never bestows comic material, however, but it does trace suffering to its root, and finds disorientation, embarrassment, and sorrow. This is not an easy movie to watch, but a challenging, perceptive, tragic story that you are not likely to forget.




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