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Ordinary People (1980)

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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.

Director:

Robert Redford

Writers:

Judith Guest (novel), Alvin Sargent (screenplay)
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Popularity
1,981 ( 348)
Won 4 Oscars. Another 15 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Donald Sutherland ... Calvin
Mary Tyler Moore ... Beth
Judd Hirsch ... Berger
Timothy Hutton ... Conrad
M. Emmet Walsh ... Swim Coach
Elizabeth McGovern ... Jeannine
Dinah Manoff ... Karen
Fredric Lehne ... Joe
James Sikking ... Ray (as James B. Sikking)
Basil Hoffman ... Sloan
Quinn K. Redeker ... Ward (as Quinn Redeker)
Mariclare Costello ... Audrey
Meg Mundy Meg Mundy ... Grandmother
Elizabeth Hubbard Elizabeth Hubbard ... Ruth
Adam Baldwin ... 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 | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 February 1981 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Gente como uno See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$54,800,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Both My Bodyguard and Ordinary People take place in Chicago, and they were released within days of eachother in September of 1980. Both involve a high school boy (Ricky Linderman and Conrad Jarrett) who attempt suicide by slashing their wrists because they feel despondent about and responsible for the death of a brother who dies in a tragic accident. (It's an accident with a gun in My Bodyguard and a boating accident in Ordinary People). The hero in each is a rich boy with a name that begins with 'C' (Clifford and Conrad). And Adam Baldwin co-stars in both movies, but in My Bodyguard he's Linderman, one of the heroes, and in Ordinary People he's Stillman, a villain. See more »

Goofs

When Karen and Conrad at the restaurant, the straw in Karen hands starts unwrapped, then becomes wrapped, and then suddenly jumps into the Coke. See more »

Quotes

Dr. Berger: So you felt great. You brought home a Christmas tree and everything was hunky dory. Okay?
Conrad "Con" Jarrett: You're the doctor.
Dr. Berger: Listen, don't take refuge in one-liners like "you're the doctor". Okay? Because that pisses me off.
Conrad "Con" Jarrett: Okay.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Vampire Diaries: Ordinary People (2011) 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)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of the finest and most true to life movies ever
6 February 2006 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

I might consider putting this movie in my top 10 list of best movies. It's absolutely amazing that for his directorial debut, Robert Redford created such a masterpiece. Now it was not all due to him, as the story was so well-written and the acting is dead on for all the characters. Part of the reason I love it so much might be because I was a psychotherapist before becoming a school teacher (mid-life crisis, you know). And, having worked with dysfunctional families, this movie gets it right time and time again. Therapy is not a miracle cure that takes effect almost immediately (like in GOOD WILL HUNTING) and the parents BOTH have a strong role in keeping the family sickness alive. Donald Sutherland is the enabler who denies there is a problem--even after one son dies by accident and the other attempts suicide. He also cannot face that the family's dysfunction is mostly controlled and maintained by his very disturbed wife, played wonderfully by Mary Tyler Moore. She is not mentally ill but has a very sick personality, as she is cold as ice emotionally and deals with problems through massive amounts of denial as well as stuffing her anger WAY down deep. Timothy Hutton is, despite his being the patient, the healthiest one in the family, as his suicide attempt is a strong cry for help. Finally, Judd Hirsch plays the therapist--and one of the most realistically portrayed therapists on film. He has no miracle cure but tries his best to get Hutton, and later Sutherland, to work hard at uncovering their dysfunction. Again and again and again, the viewer is rewarded by a brutally honest script that is about people who would be real--not Hollywood's idea of "people". The film is neither manipulative nor condescending--this is the way more films SHOULD be.

In addition, as I have watched the film several times, I keep noticing just how perfect the direction was. How wonderfully framed the shots were, how wonderfully the music fit in and how unflinching the movie dealt with pain. In particular, I love the scene with Sutherland at the psychiatrist's office as he talks about his marriage....and his eyes keep looking away and avoiding the doctor as he says how much he loves her. And the great Christmas photo scene--it just screams out "this is real!!". For this to be Robert Redford's directorial debut is absolutely amazing and he surely earned that Best Director Oscar.

FYI--although this movie is rated R, it is only for language. There are a few REALLY CHOICE WORDS used here and there, but otherwise this is a great movie for teens. If filmed today, this would no doubt be a PG-13 film. I am a very conservative parent, and yet I found this to be totally acceptable for my 15 year-old. It's a great film to watch WITH your kids and discuss what you see.

I cannot recommend a film more highly.


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