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Ordinary People [VHS]

38 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch, Timothy Hutton, Elizabeth McGovern
  • Format: HiFi Sound, PAL, Colour
  • Language: English
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Paramount
  • VHS Release Date: 17 Jun. 1996
  • Run Time: 119 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004CJOO
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 265,962 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

This portrait of an American family coming to grips with the loss of a son stars Timothy Hutton as a suicidal teenager unable to overcome his guilt after his brother's death. Donald Sutherland is his well-meaning but ineffectual father and Mary Tyler Moore plays his cold, embittered mother. Robert Redford's directorial debut earned three Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay.


Robert Redford made his Oscar-winning directorial debut with this highly acclaimed, poignantly observant drama (based on the novel by Judith Guest) about a well-to-do family's painful adjustment to tragedy. Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland play a seemingly happy couple who lose the elder of their two sons to a boating accident; Timothy Hutton plays the surviving teenage son, who blames himself for his brother's death and has attempted suicide to end his pain. They live in a meticulously kept home in an affluent Chicago suburb, never allowing themselves to speak openly of the grief that threatens to tear them apart. Only when the son begins to see a psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch) does the veneer of denial begin to crack, and Ordinary People thenceforth directly examines the broken family ties and the complexity of repressed emotions that have festered under the pretence of coping. Superior performances and an Oscar-winning script by Alvin Sargent make this one of the most uncompromising dramas ever made about the psychology of dysfunctional families. There are moments--particularly related to Mary Tyler Moore's anguished performance as a woman incapable of expressing her deepest emotions--when this film is both intensely involving and heartbreakingly real. No matter how happy and healthy your upbringing was, there's something in this excellent film that everyone can relate to. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Burjiz on 26 Jan. 2004
Format: DVD
This movie profoundly affected me when I first saw it 6 years ago,when I was 10, and watching it today its impact remains undiminished.
In the wrong hands, this could so easily have become yet another dreary family drama in the TV Movie of the Week tradition, but first-time director Robert Redford skillfully avoids all the cliches. His restrained direction ensures that the movie never descends into melodrama, and the big moments are superbly realised without the use of soaring strings or other Hollywood devices. Consequently, there is not a single moment that does not entirely ring true, and the movie is all the more heartwrenching for Redford's honest approach.
He is helped by a uniformly excellent cast. From all accounts, Redford is (as you might expect) an actor's director, and here he draws superb performances from two actors in atypical roles. Donald Sutherland is deeply moving in the difficult role of the father unable to comprehend why his family is falling apart, and Mary Tyler Moore is equally good as his emotionally repressed wife. The latter's performance is all the braver when one recalls that Tyler Moore's role mirrored her own off-screen turmoil at that time. For like the character of Beth in the movie, she too had recently lost a son, and was struggling to come to terms with her loss.
Judd Hirsch and Elizabeth McGovern are also impressive as, respectively, the psychiatrist and choirfriend who try to help Conrad, the troubled younger son of Tyler Moore and Sutherland. Conrad is played by 20-year-old Timothy Hutton in a mesmerising performance that will leave few viewers unaffected. Perfectly capturing the suicidal anguish of his character, Hutton rightly won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in this pivotal role.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 Jun. 2011
Format: DVD
This is a absolutely wonderful and convincing film about affluent middle America and how a family confronts a tragedy that is outside of its normal control. It is a story of change that is thrust upon people who are extremely secure in their environment, who are not used to things they cannot immediately master, dismiss, or anesthetize by a cushion of money and supportive relationships.

The story centers on a sensitive and gifted younger son, who is caught in an existential anxiety that he cannot control. Timothy Hutton delivers what I think is the finest performance of his career, his every gesture displaying the turmoil he is feeling inside. He cannot feel anything, he complains, and is heading for another breakdown. He deserved the Oscar for it. But Donald Sutherland is also great as his father, who is struggling to cope with issues he has never confronted. Finally, in perhaps her most subtle role, Mary Tyler Moore is the mother; afraid of genuine emotion yet exuding an arrogant complacency, she had long been content to live in a comfortable predictability, long accustomed her role and milieu. They are all reacting to unspeakable pain in their own ways, revealing their strengths and capacities.

The final character in the film is Chicago's North Shore, a community that must be experienced to be believed. Redford portrays it with a sensitivity that is astonishing and not in the slightest condescending in spite of his many comical touches. I grew up there and still feel it is more or less home, though I have long since left. The place is one of the most affluent yet least cultured places in the US.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By James on 30 Dec. 2003
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Robert Redford's debut as a director distinguishes itself by the economy of the directing,but also the sreenplay, with not a wasted frame or throwaway line of script between the two.
The achievement is rounded off with towering performances, not only from Timothy Hutton, Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland as the surviving family members; but equally from Elizabeth McGovern as Hutton's soul mate,salvation and link with the rest of humanity, and Judd Hirsch ("Taxi") as the pragmatic,straight-talking but compassionate psychiatrist.
The regular on-the-couch interludes with Hutton and Hirsch create an effective thread to counterpoint the heavy domestic situation with Hutton and his still-grieving mother.
Likewise, Hutton's blossoming relationship with McGovern is sensitively intertwined with the rest of the plot,avoiding the obvious "love interest" angle for something more substantive.
In the end, the film is about forgiveness and accepting relationships for what they are, and not what we are told they should be.
Ordinary People,maybe, but a truly extraordinary film in terms of its insight, emotional resonance (you would need to be made of wood not to be profoundly moved by the way these people tell the story) and peerless performances by all involved on-screen and off. For what it's worth, definitely one of my Top Five of all time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Chandler on 5 Oct. 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Quite simply.... the BEST film about therapy. Puts nonsense like Prince of Tides The Prince Of Tides [DVD] [1991]into perspective.

Ordinary People is a triumph for the director and the cast, an intelligent movie that captures the essence of therapy (i.e. the authenticity of relationship within the artificial and contrived setting) and the depth and complexity of a family's response to unimaginable grief. Scene after scene serve as wonderful testimonies to the film maker's art: e.g. The garden, The family photo, The diner, and of course, the fascinating therapy sessions.

Best of all... the ending, so unlike Hollywood, where for once, all is not explained or made good. Ordinary People, loose endings, real life.

Kevin Chandler (author: Listening in: A Novel of Therapy and Real Life
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