I have seen a lot of Best Picture winners, and a lot of them have sad scenes, but none of them have struck an emotional chord with me – at least, nothing nearly as strong as this gem from 1980, Ordinary People.
The directorial debut of Robert Redford, this film is often placed in the lower half of Best Picture winners, which I think is a little unfair. I will fully admit that there are times when I can feel that the movie is being manipulative, but i don’t think it ever goes too far, and by my money, the film succeeds in making the audience feel for the characters. Albeit maybe my reaction to this film may be personal bias, seeing how I saw a lot of myself in the main character, but this film moved me a lot, which is best picture worthy in my book.
The acting in this movie is flat out tremendous. Timothy Hutton deservedly won his Oscar, even though the role is so obviously lead, I get the feeling he wouldn’t have won the award had he been campaigned lead, so it works out. Either way, it’s a brilliant piece of work by a young actor.
Mary Tyler Moore is just phenomenal in this role, and nails both of her lighthearted moments and her more serious scenes, balancing them out perfectly. Donald Sutherland and Judd Hirsch both deliver fine turns as well. Redford’s direction is felt throughout, but it’s always very subtle. Sometimes the best directing is the kind that goes unnoticed.
The screenplay is wonderfully well written, and at the end of the day, this film is a case of ‘good story, well told’. This is a really powerful movie that’s based entirely on its story and its characters. It’s not trying to be anything more than what it is, and what it all boils down to is one of my favorite films that I’ve discovered on The Best Picture Quest.