Love, life, and the struggles of a mother bringing up a son in the the late 70's. The ignorance of a free spirit against the needs of a young man trying to find his true character and beliefs. Living in a bohemian household shared with 3 like minded spirited people to help pay the rent, his mother tries to establish bonds that he cannot deal with. She cannot deal with his inability to talk, and enlists the help of other females in his life to share the burden of his upbringing. Slowly life unravels for them all without understanding how. In spite of their perceived struggles, they all go on to live defined lives without any serious consequences.Written by
Terrific ensemble cast, with career performance by Annette Bening
"20th Century Women" (2016 release; 118 min.) brings the story of Dorothea, a divorced woman in her mid-50s, and her 15 yr. old son Jamie. As the movie opens, we are reminded it is "Santa Barbara, 1979", and Dorothea's car is engulfed in flames while she and Jamie were grocery shopping. When they finally get home, we also get to know Abbie, a 24 yr. old orange-haired photographer, and William, a Mr. fix-it-all, who both are renting rooms at Dorothea's house. Then there is Julie, the 17 yr. old who hangs out at the house for no apparent reason. When Dorothea feels she cannot handle the unruly(?) Jamie by herself, she enlists the help of Abbie and Julie. At this point we're 15 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the long-awaited new movie from writer-director Mike Mills, who last surprised us with the outstanding "Beginners" (now already 6+ years ago). Here he brings a character study of a group of 5 people in the late 70s. This movie immediately connected with me, as I saw pieces of myself in "young" people: Abbie (Born 1955), Julie (born 1962) and Jamie (born 1964). I was born in 1960. The movie features an all-star ensemble cast, with an almost unrecognizable Great Gerwig as Abbie (and on the heels of another outstanding role in the recent "Jackie"), Elle Fanning in perhaps her best role to date as Julie, Billy Crudup as William, and newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann as Jamie. Surely we have not seen the last of him. But the biggest applause must go to Annette Bening, who brings perhaps the finest performance of her career as the well-intended but at times confused, sad and/or lonely Dorothea. Mills brings us these characters in rich detail and nuance, much to the viewing public's delight. Ever wonder what a "cool cigarette walk" is like? You'll find out in the movie. Music plays a ventral role in the movie. There is a fine original score (mostly electronic) by Roger Neill, but even better are the song placements (Talking Head, Black Flag, David Bowie, the Clash, and many others).
"20th Century Women" premiered to great acclaim at the New York Film Festival last Fall. The movie opened wide this weekend and I couldn't wait to see it. The Friday evening screening where I saw this at was attended nicely although by no means close to a sell-out. Doesn't matter. This is one of the finer movies of the year, for me anyway. If you like a richly-developed character study with an all-star ensemble cast, you cannot go wrong with this, be it in the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "20th Century Women" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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