20th Century Women

I remember, four years ago, being really excited about the movie Beginners. It had Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor, and a good potential story.

But when I finally saw it, I thought it was only okay and a bit disappointed by that fact. I might have liked it more if I was a more mature film watcher though, but who knows, going back and rewatching it just feels like a chore now.

Despite that, I was still surprised to see that the same director, Mike Mills, also directed 20th Century Women, which judging by the trailer seems like such a very different film. Well, obviously one point is that it is mostly about women and not men. It still involves age and growing up as a major theme, and some quirky characters. But still, quite different films.

Needless to say, I needed to watch this movie because I know it will be nominated probably for Best Actress. And because Best Actress films are biased against, it might not be nominated for anything else.

And there are so many women to be the focus of, such a shame.
The year is 1979, in Santa Barbara, California, and yes, that is the same place that Psych was supposed to have taken place.

Dorothea (Annette Bening) is a decently modern woman for the time. She is strongly independent, as her husband left her about a decade before. She has a son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), who is now 15. He is smart, curious, and a free thinker, like she has raised him to be. But she is a bit worried that he has no strong male influence on his life.

Sure, she has had him hang out with men before. In fact, the house they have they rent out to several guests, one of them being a middle aged man (Billy Crudub), who fixes cars and is a handyman. But they have nothing in common, so he is bored when they have to interact.

So she gets the help of two women. One, Abbie (Greta Gerwig), another renter who lives with them, and survivor of cervical cancer. And also Julie (Elle Fanning), a girl slightly older than Jamie who is his best friend, who tends to sleep over in his bed in a completely non sexual way. She wants to have them help teach him about the world. About how to be a good man, even if it is from the women point of view. She cannot see him in the world how he really is, as she is the mom, so she thinks he will listen to them and they have his best interests at heart.

And well, teach them they sure do.

Like the proper way to drug up before your first rave.
20th Century Women was a surprising film. Despite the title, I ended up liking it more than I thought I would. Not saying that I don’t like films about women, I just might not get them as much depending on the focus.

First of all, the camera work was really fun in this movie. Every time travel occurred, it was sped up and made colorful (double meaning on the word trip, potentially). Characters were sped up on regular movement between scenes as well, even if just walking. The framing was well done, especially on the Bening/Crudup dance scene. And a decent chunk of the story is told through flashbacks, narrated by various cast members, going over their story on how they got to this point in their lives. It was creative and visually pleasing.

My biggest issue from this film comes mostly from our lead, Bening. The character she plays is kind of shit, and her actions are a bit confusing. She is set up as this strong, modern, free spirited thinking woman. But all of that goes out the door when she sees what other women do, or what her son thinks. Most of the film she seems like a normal conservative lady, unable to deal with the changes in the world. It is so weird and bizarre, and it made me feel nothing for her character.

The side characters all have their charms though. Zumann, Gerwig, Fanning, and Crudup. Those are the people who I think should be nominated come Oscar time. A decent and amusing film otherwise.

3 out of 4.

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