After a four-month stint in a mental hospital following an attempted suicide, Conrad Jarett (Timothy Hutton) returns home to live with his parents. His father (Donald Sutherland) coddles him too much. His mother (Mary Tyler Moore) lost her favorite son to a boating accident, and has no love left to give. So poor young Conrad seeks help from a psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch) and meets a new girl at school (Elizabeth McGovern). That’s the plot. You know where it’s going to go, but director Robert Redford slowly unravels all of his characters in turn, creating a rather elegant drama.
Ordinary People is too often beaten down simply because it won the Best Picture oscar over Scorsese’s Raging Bull, but it’s a great film. Parts are severely outdated (the editing of the flashback sequences is laughable by today’s standards) but the heart is still there. It’s an emotional movie with Oscar-worthy performances up and down the line.
“Robert Cornelius (1809-1893), the inventer of the Hipstamatic daguerrotype, was a pioneer in the human expression of stylish alienation and brooding ennui. As his 1839 self-portrait attests, for as long as photographs have existed humans been poppin our collars.”
Robert Hirsch, Seizing the Light: A History of Photography, entry on Robert Cornelius, McGraw-Hill, 2000