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ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980) 
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Post Re: ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)
Let me pose you guys this question. How would you say that the portrayal of counseling sessions in Ordinary People compared with the similar picture presented in Good Will Hunting? I am not by any means a psychologist (I'm actually in the process of wrapping up my Bachelor's in Civil Engineering) but it seems to me as though Good Will Hunting (an excellent film in its own right) watered the subject down far more than did Ordinary People. Perhaps the reason why I enjoyed this film so much was because it had what I perceived to be a certain frankness in how it approached the subject of psychology that's sorely lacking in most Hollywood films. I especially appreciated the directness of Judd Hirsch's character and how he was able to deflect everything that Conrad was throwing at him while still being able to relate to him. Any thoughts on this?


Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:40 am
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Post Re: ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)
oafolay wrote:
Let me pose you guys this question. How would you say that the portrayal of counseling sessions in Ordinary People compared with the similar picture presented in Good Will Hunting? I am not by any means a psychologist (I'm actually in the process of wrapping up my Bachelor's in Civil Engineering) but it seems to me as though Good Will Hunting (an excellent film in its own right) watered the subject down far more than did Ordinary People. Perhaps the reason why I enjoyed this film so much was because it had what I perceived to be a certain frankness in how it approached the subject of psychology that's sorely lacking in most Hollywood films. I especially appreciated the directness of Judd Hirsch's character and how he was able to deflect everything that Conrad was throwing at him while still being able to relate to him. Any thoughts on this?


Sheryl, this one's for you...


Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:00 pm
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Post Re: ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)
oafolay wrote:
Let me pose you guys this question. How would you say that the portrayal of counseling sessions in Ordinary People compared with the similar picture presented in Good Will Hunting? I am not by any means a psychologist (I'm actually in the process of wrapping up my Bachelor's in Civil Engineering) but it seems to me as though Good Will Hunting (an excellent film in its own right) watered the subject down far more than did Ordinary People. Perhaps the reason why I enjoyed this film so much was because it had what I perceived to be a certain frankness in how it approached the subject of psychology that's sorely lacking in most Hollywood films. I especially appreciated the directness of Judd Hirsch's character and how he was able to deflect everything that Conrad was throwing at him while still being able to relate to him. Any thoughts on this?


I feel like this requires a very lengthy response, hehe, I'll do my best. :)

Psychotherapy is very diverse and subjective. People experience it differently because there are so many factors influencing the relationship between patient and therapist (presenting problem, the patient's personality, the therapist's personality, therapeutic style, motivation, rapport/trust, gender, level of experience, etc.) The therapist's theoretical orientation heavily influences what the sessions look like (i.e., a structured session with a set agenda vs a more free-flowing unstructured session). I suppose all these films represent a facet of therapy. "The Sopranos" also has a good depiction of therapy and the dynamic that goes on between the patient and therapist. "In treatment" is another example. All these depictions feature a less structured free-flowing style of therapy (a.k.a. psychodynamic approach). I can't recall seeing a structured therapy session on film (a.k.a. cognitive-behavioral therapy). However, I have seen examples of this on news magazine shows like Dateline, 20/20, Frontline, etc.

With regard to the therapy scenes depicted in "Ordinary people" and "Good Will Hunting," both patients (Timothy Hutton and Matt Damon) appear to have established a very strong therapeutic relationship and trust with their therapist (Judd Hirsch and Robin Williams). Some argue that the bond or relationship between therapist and patient is the most curative of all factors regardless of their therapeutic style or approach. Anyway, the Matt Damon character was initially resistant to therapy. He barely spoke and was clearly not engaged. He was an angry and tentative patient. In contrast, Timothy Hutton's character appeared more receptive and motivated. Robin Williams' character could only go so far with a patient who is not fully committed to the therapeutic relationship. Perhaps that's why you feel that Good Will Hunting "watered down the subject far more" than Ordinary People.

I hope I answered your question.


Tue Feb 24, 2009 9:07 pm
Post Re: ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)
I also felt blank and detached during this actor's showcase. But it got nearly all of them those Oscar nominations and wins they were hoping for. Timothy Hutton's category placement -- Best Supporting Actor -- is rather puzzling.

And this line by Mary Tyler Moore really bothered me for some reason: "No... wait a minute... ha, did I take trig? Huh... anyway, I bought you two shirts they're on your bed."


Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:04 am
Post Re: ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)
The ultimate 'Family-in-a-vice' drama; 'Sidney Lumet's version of 'Long Day's Journey Into Night' from 1962. That is detached as well, but is also devastating and extremely literate.


Wed Feb 25, 2009 1:12 am
Post Re: ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)
I watched Ordinary People because it's become an infamous film. I wanted to see the film that was honored as being better than Raging Bull. The film wasn't bad but I didn't see what the fuss was about. Perhaps it's one of the films where you had to see it when it came out. May have been unique and fresh for 1980.

But I am curious about some of the backlash towards it. Is Ordinary People disliked on it's own merits or because people watch and think about it beating out Raging Bull?

I ask because I saw The English Patient for the first time in '99 and was furious that it beat out Fargo for best picture. Perhaps my judgement was clouded because I adore Fargo so? Since then the EP episode of Seinfeld has become one of my favorites! :D


Sun Mar 01, 2009 10:37 am
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Post Re: ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)
Bondurant wrote:
But I am curious about some of the backlash towards it. Is Ordinary People disliked on it's own merits or because people watch and think about it beating out Raging Bull?


It's disliked (to the extent that it is disliked) because it has not aged well. This is one of those films that strikes a particular chord when it comes out but doesn't look nearly as good when viewed from the perspective of a later time. Actually, a lot of Oscar winners are like that. The fact that it beat Raging Bull doesn't help but, outside of cineastes, most people don't know or remember that.

Ordinary People is by no means a bad film but many people expecting to see something extrordinary don't get it and that causes them to feel let down.


Sun Mar 01, 2009 1:35 pm
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Post Re: ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)
I have always felt that Ordinary People is unfairly maligned because it was awarded the best picture Oscar over Raging Bull. Objectively, I can see that Raging Bull is the more impressive artistic achievement. However, Ordinary People is one of my favorite films. It tears me apart each time I view it. The film features the best performances that Sutherland, Moore, and Hutton have ever given in a film. The film also features one of my favorite endings with the son and father telling each other "I love you." How many movies end with those words?

As an aside, didn't it seem as if Debra Winger in Rachel Getting Married was channeling Mary Tyler Moore's performance in Ordinary People?


Sun Apr 12, 2009 4:51 am
Post Re: ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)
I almost finish this movie yesterday in my English class. I think I like this movie more than most people did, for one aspect of the film - Timothy Hutton. Every character in the movie is slightly different from what I kind of envision in the book, but Hutton's Conrad is amazingly exactly as I imagine him, and his performance is, imo, the best thing in the movie. I really connect with and feel for him.


Sat Apr 25, 2009 11:11 am
Post Re: ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)
Timothy Hutton being placed in the supporting Oscar category has been mentioned in this review as well as by some people commenting. The billing of a film has to do with who the star is at that point. Screen time isn't always a factor. Look at movies like Superman and The Godfather. When Superman came out, Christopher Reeves was nearly an unknown, so Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman were billed as the stars. Al Pacino clearly had the most screen time in The Godfather, yet he went on to get nominated for a supporting Oscar and Brando won for a leading role. It's not as black and white as who is in the most scenes.


Mon Feb 21, 2011 2:08 pm
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