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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
2,707 ( 884)
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

Lee Remick and Ann-Margret were both suggested for the role of Beth, but Redford said in interviews that he had seen Mary Tyler Moore, alone on the beach that bridged their properties one morning, shortly after the death of her son. Wrong. Mary Tyler Moore's son Richard died on October 14, 1980, following release of Ordinary People, not before filming. He said that Moore, in this contemplative, stricken state, was precisely who he envisioned when he read the book. And while he considered other actresses, he was never able to shake that image, and eventually offered Mary Tyler Moore the role. 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

Conrad "Con" Jarrett: [about Karen's suicide] I feel bad about this! I feel really, really bad about this! Just let me feel bad about this!
Dr. Berger: Okay. I feel bad about it, too.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #33.60 (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

For He's a Jolly Good Fellow
(uncredited)
Traditional
Sung by all at the party
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User Reviews

 
Ordinary is the Problem!!!!!
29 September 2005 | by dataconflossmoorSee all my reviews

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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