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Ordinary People
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Ordinary People More at IMDbPro »

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167 out of 184 people found the following review useful:

This movie saved my life

10/10
Author: georgehwilliams67 from Moscow, Idaho
8 October 2004

I was 16 years old in 1984 when I first saw this movie. I was also clinically depressed and suicidal. I had been on antidepressants for about a year (in the pre-prozac days) and I happened to see this movie on Showtime or HBO - almost by accident. Timothy Hutton perfectly captures what it's like to be depressed as a teenager. And Judd Hirsch and Hutton perfectly capture the patient/therapist relationship. There are also a few perfect little scenes that capture the problems of a family that can't communicate. Especially memorable is the scene where Calvin tells Beth about the shoes he wore to Buck's funeral. This film captures all of the important moments like this that truly demonstrate the problems the family is having. After seeing it, I read the book and I knew that if Conrad could go on, so could I. I watch this movie once every few years. It really means a lot to me.

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104 out of 126 people found the following review useful:

SHATTERING

10/10
Author: MISSMOOHERSELF from Elberon, NJ
22 October 2004

The perfect life of the perfect family is destroyed when the older of 2 sons dies in a sailing accident, leaving the parents and his younger brother to grieve, pick up and carry on. But how they accomplish this makes this movie a shattering but ultimately uplifting (in parts) experience.

Buck Jarrett drowns after he and his younger brother, Conrad, go sailing on a questionable day. Later, Conrad, feeling the guilt of his brother's death, tries to commit suicide by slashing his wrists. This turns out to be a blessing in disguise because the true personalities of his parents, Cal and Beth, as well as his own ability to grow are revealed when Conrad returns from the psychiatric hospital after a 4-month stay.

Conrad is given the name of Dr. Tyrone Berger, a psychiatrist (marvelously played by Judd Hirsch) who is unconventional to say the least. He dresses casually, drinks coffee he makes in his office and smokes incessantly (this is pre anti-tobacco). And he doesn't buy into the psychobabble practiced by many psychiatrists. At first, Conrad tells Dr. Berger he wants to gain control but what he really wants is to not feel - not feel the pain of his brother's death and what he believes is his part in it. But that unravels through a series of experiences he endures as the movie proceeds. In choir practice, Conrad is smitten with Jeannine Pratt (beautifully played by Elizabeth McGovern), a fellow singer who has an ability to recognize Conrad's pain without being amazed, horrified or judgmental. And Conrad also has a friend, Karen, (played nicely by Dinah Manoff)whom he'd met in the hospital and who can relate to his experiences there.

Donald Sutherland as Cal, Mary Tyler Moore as Beth and Timothy Hutton as Conrad give outstanding, Oscar-caliber performances. Cal tries to keep his feelings hidden by wearing a mask of bravado, carrying on and functioning in a world that has taken his son away. He loves Conrad and also recognizes his pain and his alienation fom his mother though he realizes he can't "fix it." But it's Mary Tyler Moore's performance as Beth that is so amazing. She is plastic through and through and it gets to the point of being downright annoying and yet MTM's portrayal is perfect. Of all the characters, hers is really the most disturbed. She wants to have things exactly as they were even though she mourns the loss of her firstborn son. She can't love Conrad because he committed the one unforgivable sin - he survived while her favorite did not.

Timothy Hutton, sadly, has never had a movie to top "Ordinary People." He has done other work, of course, (most notably in my opinion, "Taps") and can be seen currently as Archie in "Nero Wolf" on A&E. But his role as the troubled surviving son who rises from the pain in "Ordinary People" is truly magnificent and shattering. He earned the Oscar and he truly deserved it. And as he accepted his Academy Award, he remembered his father, actor Jim Hutton, who had died from liver cancer shortly before Timothy got the award. That was a classy thing to do. I hope Mr. Hutton gets another plum role like this one; everything else he has done since pales in comparison.

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135 out of 194 people found the following review useful:

Ordinary is the Problem!!!!!

10/10
Author: dataconflossmoor from United States
29 September 2005

The setting for this movie is seemingly appropriate for characterizing frustrations...The North Shore!!...Chicago's sequestered citadel of professional and avaricious elitism...A three million dollar home, trips to Europe, your kids going off to the most expensive colleges in the country, remodeling your kitchen every couple of years, and, your work-less, socially active wife being a permanent fixture at Marshall Fields!! All of these trademarks of success are taken for granted, and, they are merely expectations for the ultimate definition of a quiet bedroom community!! Acquisition of status is no longer excitement, it is, in fact, a given...The only devastating misconception to this entire scenario is that people living in the North Shore are not superhuman, they are merely overburdened, socially, financially, physically, mentally and, as this film so brilliantly depicts, EMOTIONALLY!! There is a prevailing mentality of a mandated and bothersome agenda that all of the characters in this movie must adhere to!!...The Jarretts (Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton) are a family who are shattered by perpetual tragedy and isolation, each one of them does not know what to do about the fact that the other son, Buck, has died, and Conrad (Timothy Hutton) has attempted to commit suicide!! So much of this film deals with how the misunderstanding of each other is the monster that will win out!!.. Perseverence is something that the mother thinks she can handle, but, in fact, she cannot!! The son, Conrad, lacks the necessary social stamina for the incredibly tedious task of sustaining! Finally, the father needs a bevy of facts to gather up in order for him to attain a pleasant resolve by which everyone in his family may live by!!.. This catastrophic dilemma is answered with social gatherings, vacations, an inordinate preoccupation with moral facades, and expensive therapy!! The bottom line is that a tragic undermining to every critical situation in this movie continuously prevails! Ultimately, this troublesome circumstance is such whereby Conrad and his parents need more time than this movie allows to heel all wounds even on a superficial level...Director, Robert Redford, has an incredible insight in this movie, and many white collar executive households share the exacerbations and misgivings of financial competition that this Lake Forest household had to endure!!..."Ordinary People" won for best picture in 1980, and, it is no wonder...The despondence the Jarretts faced was a horror story that could teach Stephen King a couple of tricks... The Mother feels as though she must create an illusion of contentment to the outside world, even if it is at the risk of neglecting her family's needs...Masquerading pretenses seems to have become her self-centered pet project...The father, while well intentioned, is meager and adolescent in his approach to coping with the household's turbulent consternation..It is almost as if he expects a resolution to his family's problems to be put in his stocking on Christmas morning...The son, Conrad, just resigns himself to misery and arctic desolation!! The overall predicament in this film has a frightening simplicity... The Jarret's aggregate plight is that they are alone, unhappy and confused!! Judd Hirsch is terrific as the shrink who feels sorry for this high school kid (Conrad). Conrad Jarrett is compelled to have therapy sessions with him,(Judd Hirsch). As a psychiatrist, he knows that he has to go through professionally therapeutic procedures to actually help him out...The greatest help he can offer Conrad is that he must convey to him that his problems can only be solved one step at a time. This psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch) cannot simply utter some miracle mumble jumble like Conrad's father expects him to do!! "Ordinary People" is about ordinary, well to do, upper middle class people, these are people who constantly admonish themselves for making mistakes!! They perennially imitate wealthy people, which means they are continuously fighting a losing battle! Genuine problems such as a son attempting suicide have to take a back seat to endeavors which are along the line of status games and pusillanimous charades of compulsory escalation into the realm of social register advancement!!.. Just another $250,000.00 yearly income household...ho hum!!...What is bothering you? "Everything!!" "Did we say that"..."We mean to say that nothing at all is bothering us"....The purpose of a two acre piece of property is not to be a voice in the wilderness.. Apocalyptic human pitfalls rest on apathetic shaky grounds in Chicago's North Shore Suburbia, and, they are indiscriminately shelved off into a dubious haven of callous anonymity!! Calvin Jarrett is plagued by the shattering realization of just how pitiful it is to have to attend your own son's funeral!! Tragedy fights dirty pool when it will not even allow the Jarretts to know exactly what the unanswered questions are in their dreadfully befuddled lives!! This situational dilemma manifests itself by pointing out several acrimonious facts: People who seem alright may not be. Household upheaval and family hardships will go quite awhile before they are even mollified. Also, the beautiful cinematography of the deciduous Lake Forrest autumn erupts as a polar opposite to what emotional ugliness lurks in the Jarrett's domicile!! This movie concludes at a glimmer of hope for Conrad, which symbolizes a demoralizing, and almost hopelessly rudimentary progress for the entire Jarrett Family, YES!! this is very, very, very, DEPRESSING!!! Unfortunately, this situation is extremely realistic! "Ordinary People" is an outstanding movie for a variety of reasons.. Mostly for the fact that it illustrates how clinical depression cannot be instantly cured just because there are only 18 minutes left to the movie!! I give it five stars out of five stars!!!

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87 out of 112 people found the following review useful:

Unforgettable

10/10
Author: triple8 from Conn
12 December 2004

I saw Ordinary People when I was very young and had a very difficult time with the storyline.However, even then I think I knew I was watching something simply remarkable. Even after all these years, it's impact has not lessened, which I guess is a mark of an incredible movie. The movie is among the most disturbing I've ever viewed and the performances, at least to me, are among the best. I can't imagine viewing this movie without feeling absolutely drained afterwards and I think I may have been a bit to young to fully appreciate it, but I can't imagine giving this anything but a 10, it was absolutely flawless in it's storytelling.

I do think though, that a certain element of maturity is needed to view this, there are few I know who have not been touched or upset by the story and if one is to young or just not in the right mood to handle the heaviness(as I wasn't at the time),they may not be able to fully appreciate it. I still know people who cannot sit through this and I understand why but I hope this movie will be viewed by many who can handle it, it's impact is fierce, all the performances are incredible and Mary Tyler Moore's performance is among the best of any female lead ever.

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68 out of 86 people found the following review useful:

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

10/10
Author: Blake French (baffilmcritic@cs.com) from USA
29 May 2001



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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57 out of 66 people found the following review useful:

Great Family Drama

10/10
Author: qdude440 from United States
20 July 2005

This is a powerful directing debut from Robert Redford, a great family drama that goes every which way but down. By the end, our thoughts have been altered a bit and its a film that leaves you thinking.

Conrad, played brilliantly by Timothy Hutton in an Oscar winning role, is the depressed suicidal son of a couple struggling to cope with their son's drowning death. Conrad of course feels responsible, and has already tried to take his own life once before.

Reluctantly, he begins to see a shrink at the advice of his father. Dr. Berger, also played brilliantly by Judd Hirsch {though there are no slouches in the cast}, helps Conrad through thick and thin. By the end of the movie, the audience truly feels for all characters to some degree.

As has been stated, the acting is magnificent. The story may seem simple but this type of film really doesn't need a heavy plot. Its an excellent look at the problems we all face. When I first saw this at a young age I related completely to Conrad's character. When I saw this tonight, I related more to the adults and could really feel for them a lot more than I remembered. Each character has a unique sense of reality to them. The actors really carry the film, making the characters seem like real people we've known for years.

Unfortunately this movie has received somewhat of a bad reputation over the years as the film that beat Raging Bull in 1980 for the Best Picture and Director Oscars. While both movies are excellent, its sad that one has to be better than the other and people just don't enjoy both movies for what they are. Many people have preconceived opinions about this 'small' film they have not heard of. After all, Raging Bull is an all time classic. Just watch this movie with an open mind, because it really works on every level as a powerful family drama detailing the persona of many different types of people.

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43 out of 55 people found the following review useful:

Stunning insight into a family falling apart.

10/10
Author: Greg from CT
30 January 2005

"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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47 out of 64 people found the following review useful:

Quiet, moving and exceptional

10/10
Author: preppy-3 from United States
10 February 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Excellent adaptation of a wonderful novel by Judith Guest.

An all-American family called the Jarretts are falling apart. The two sons were in a boating accident--one died and the other Conrad (Timothy Hutton) survives. But he feels guilt over surviving and tries to commit suicide. He's institutionalized and the movie starts when he returns home from the hospital. His mother (Mary Tyler Moore) is cold, distant and unemotional. His father (Donald Sutherland) tries to act like everything is cheerful and fine. Conrad goes to see a psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch) to find out how--and if--he can deal with this.

A multi-Oscar winner (Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor) this is a very quiet but emotional film. Director Robert Redford (his first film as a director) doesn't push things in your face or hit you over the head with screaming or yelling--he quietly lets the dialogue and acting explain the characters and situations.

All the actors are in top-notch form--Moore is superb as Beth, the mother. Before this she was just known for doing comedy and being perky. Here she plays a repressed, emotionally unavailable woman--you can see her holding back and feel her breaking--just great. She was nominated for Best Actress and should have won. Sutherland is stunning as the father struggling to deal with his son and wife. Hutton is perfection--you can see the anger and guilt in his character. I was never too crazy about Hirsch in this movie--he comes across as way too cold and critical--still his scenes with Hutton are among the best in the movie. Also Elizabeth McGovern (in her film debut) is sweet and appealing as Conrad's girlfriend.

Beautifully shot, exceptionally well-acted...a truly great movie. And don't miss the gorgeous opening montage of Lake Forest IL. A 10 all the way.

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35 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

Impressive until the last minute.

10/10
Author: Paul Backus from Netherlands
16 February 2006

I saw this movie in a very old theatre in Maastricht, Netherlands. I was astonished by the beauty of the plot, the character played by Timothy Hutton and Donald Sutherland. The most impressive thing was at the end. Everybody left the theatre in complete silence. People were touched and had tears in their eyes. This movie moves people. It is a story so close to reality and so well played by the actors. One really hates Mary Tyler-Moore at the end for being a bitch first class, a mother with no feelings for her youngest son. Judd Hirsch is very funny in acting as a psychologist. He plays it so naturally as if he had seen one for several years. In my opinion Robert Redford directed his best movie ever in Ordinary People.

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28 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

The epitome of the broken family genre.

10/10
Author: longislandjoe from United States
26 May 2006

Ordinary People is an extraordinary motion picture for five reasons. The outstanding direction of Robert Redford, and the brilliant acting of Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland, Timothy Hutton and Judd Hirsch.

This movie is set in suburban Chicago. The family is an upper-middle class foursome, the parents and their two sons. The eldest son, Buck, is killed in a boating accident. The other son, Conrad, survives but is riddled with guilt. His mother, Beth, who idolized her deceased first born, is cold with her surviving son. She looks at him and is reminded of the pain. Instead of nurturing her surviving child she distances herself from him. Conrad attempts suicide and spends time in a mental hospital. Calvin, the understanding father, is torn between his wife and son.

Dr. Berger, a psychiatrist, is hired by the family to help the troubled young man. The scenes between Hutton and Hirsch are amongst the best in the movie. He helps Conrad understand his mother's pain and shortcomings and to stand on his own. Conrad tries to keep his family together and realizes, almost with relief, that the family's problems are caused by Beth's "burying all her love with Buck".

This is a fascinating motion picture. The direction and the performances are superb. It is an intelligent, moving and honest examination about a family torn by grief and pain. Don't miss it!

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