In the quiet first scenes of director Mike Mills’s autobiographical 2011 film Beginners we see Ewan McGregor’s character (playing Mills’s alter ego) cleaning up and removing items from sparsely decorated rooms of a house both seemingly unoccupied and not his own. The house in question is Richard Neutra’s international modernist masterpiece, the Lovell Health House. We soon find out that, within the film, the house was owned by McGregor’s character’s late father (played perfectly by Christopher Plummer).
Completed in 1929, this icon of L.A. architecture had previously featured in the excellent 1997 film noir, LA Confidential. However, while that film highlighted the house’s unique exterior, Beginners favors interior shots, the filmmakers utilizing the plethora of windows lining the house for natural lighting. Also essential to these interior shots is the myriad of mid-century furniture pieces owned by Plummer’s character (which were apparently supplied by various members of the film crew!).
As for the film itself, it’s easily one of the best romantic dramas of the 2000s and is an unqualified success for Mills, especially considering Beginners is only his second film (his third is currently in production). The cast is uniformly excellent, but Melanie Laurent as McGregor’s character’s love interest might steal the show, proving that her stunning performance in 2009’s Inglorious Basterds was no fluke.
For more on the Lovell Health House go here, and check out Beginners on Netflix streaming.
Contributed by Buyer’s Specialist Matt Allen — an avid film buff and creator of Asheville Film Snobs Anonymous group.