20th CENTURY WOMEN
Mike Mills’s texturally and behaviorally rich new comedy seems to keep redefining itself as it goes along, creating a moving group portrait of particular people in a particular place (Santa Barbara) at a particular moment in the 20th century (1979), one lovingly attended detail at a time. The great Annette Bening, in one of her very best performances, is Dorothea, a single mother raising her teenage son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), in a sprawling bohemian house, which is shared by an itinerant carpenter (Billy Crudup) and a punk artist with a Bowie haircut (Greta Gerwig) and frequented by Jamie’s rebellious friend Julie (Elle Fanning). 20th Century Women is warm, funny, and a work of passionate artistry. An A24 release.
Writer/Director Mike Mills knows women. He appreciates the ins and outs, the nuances of age and stage and the humor in everyday life. Annette Bening asks one of her tenants Abbie, and son’s high school aged best friend, Julie to teach him how to be a food man. Since his father is out of the picture and mother Dorothea has trouble keeping an age appropriate man around for long, she had enlisted help. thankfully she has been thus far successful in raising an open-minded and perfectly curious boy. His inspiration for exploring the world is only enhanced by the eclectic females he is surrounded by. The film is funny and sweet. It’s a bit if a time capsule and yet somehow remains timeless in the theme of self discovery. The transitions are like colorful music videos mixed with punk music from Talking Heads and Black Flag.
The cast is a dream. Billy Crudup is masculine but sensitive and thoughtful. Elle Fanning plays boy crazy, rebellion Julie with a wonderful mix of overconfidence and softness to remind us all of our teenage years. Lucas Jade Zumann is the anchor of this film in plot and reality. His innocence on-screen is wildly refreshing. Greta Gerwig is as strong and wonderful as always. Her vulnerability is unsurpassed as a punk artist and cancer survivor dealing with societal expectations of healing. Annette Bening, as bohemian mother Dorothea, owns the screen. She is pure magic in presence and delivery. I’m pulling for a nomination for Gerwig and Bening this year as I think they both at least deserve the nod. 20th Century Women is ensemble casting perfection. Without a doubt you are watching a real family on the screen. With Mike Mills‘ screenplay so full of insight, I vote they show kids this film in school and throw out those laughably outdated sex ed videos. You can catch the film when it opens this Christmas.