Movie Review: ’20th Century Women’
The follow up to his 2011 film Beginners is Mike Mill’s 20th Century Women. As with Beginners, which was written about the life of his late father, this film is also semi-autobiographical. This time his real life mother largely inspires the lead character. Just as moving as his previous work in Beginners, 20th Century Women is Mills’s best film to date.
We are introduced to Dorothea (Annette Bening) as she raises her son raising her son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) in the late 1970s in California, where they live in a gigantic old house in Montecito. In a perpetual state of renovation Dorothea rents out rooms in the house. Living there is the free spirit Abby (Greta Gerwig), and a mechanic named William (Billy Crudup). Coming and going out of the house is Jamie’s girlfriend Julie (Elle Fanning). As Dorothea sees a male figurine lacking in Jaime’s life she sees it as a unique opportunity for both Abby and Julie to help guide him into manhood by offering him by advice from the perspective of the opposite sex.
Multilayered and ever expansive Mills’s observant script offers us more than just a mere glimpse into the lives of his characters. We see inside the lives of Dorothea, Abby, Julie, Jamie, and William all throughout with enlightening voice-overs that gives the viewer full insight to these people as they navigate life. By the end it’s as if you’ve known these characters for years, and feel like old friends. Mills has always had an eye for visual storytelling from having directed music videos, and here he shows the experiences of these characters on screen beautifully.
The centerpiece of the film is Annette Bening’s performance. Bening is a revelation in this role, and does some of the best work of her career. Come Oscar nomination time it will be a hard one to pass up, and having been nominated for four she’s due for a win. The supporting performances by Gerwig, and Fanning both compliment Bening beautifully. Gerwig, who’s become something of an indie darling these past few years, has never been better in her moving portrayal of a the wild spirit Abby. She could be a wild card in the supporting actress category.
In the ever changing America of today 20th Century Women perfectly parallels the times which we are currently live in. As these characters go headfirst into the 1980s they see the world around them change drastically, and if one looks closely they might find themselves reflected in them. It’s just the feel good film people need right now, and is one of the best film’s of 2016.
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