1980 • Ordinary People

We’re trying to get in the pattern of making Sunday nights our Best Picture project night so we don’t stray from the project for months at a time like last summer. After a nice Sunday evening of dinner, wine, and cribbage on the balcony, we moved inside for 1980’s Ordinary People. Movie buff friend Jason LaPlant told us we would be disappointed with the 80s decade in this project, especially coming off the great 70s decade. Well, we’ll find out for ourselves!

Ordinary People tells the story of an Illinois family coping with the death of the oldest brother, Buck, in a boating accident. The younger son, Conrad, has difficulty moving past his role in Buck’s death and tries to kill himself. The mom, Beth, seemed to strongly favor Buck to Conrad and has never been the same person. And the dad, Calvin, is the only one in the family who seems to have moved on. The movie centers around Conrad and his psychiatrist, Dr. Berger, as they works through Conrad’s problems.

The movie marked the directorial debut of Robert Redford. It also featured an all-star cast of Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton, Judd Hirsch, and newcomer Elizabeth McGovern. Hutton received the Oscar for Outstanding Supporting Actor for his role as Conrad, and Hirsch received a nomination in the same category. Moore was also up for Best Actress. Lauren and I commented how we were probably in the extreme minority of people who have seen Mary Tyler Moore in her serious role in Ordinary People but not her much better known comedic side in her own TV series.

Although many, including Jason, believe Raging Bull was the far superior movie of 1980, Ordinary People seems to have been a solid movie too. It kinda seemed to pick up where Kramer vs. Kramer left off, dealing with a normal family that was suddenly torn apart. This was not in the least bit a fun, lighthearted movie. It was a very difficult emotional movie as we hoped the Jarrett family could recover from their loss.

I thought the acting of Timothy Hutton was very solid. Why he was up for a supporting actor award and not lead actor doesn’t make much sense to me. It was said that the omission of Donald Sutherland from any acting categories at the Oscars is one of the all-time greatest injustices in the awards’ history. Perhaps a bit of a strong remark, but why were the other co-stars nominated and not him?

Overall Lauren and I both thought this was a very good movie, but not great. It should crack the upper half of my rankings. I will have to watch Raging Bull someday and find out which movie should have won the Oscar.

Next up, 1981’s Chariots of Fire.

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1 Comment

  1. […] • Make sure you check out my latest Best Picture review, 1980’s Ordinary People over at the movie blog, and my latest food review, the Jimmy John’s of Chanhassen, on the […]


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