Originally Published on SaltyPopcorn.com.au
It’s 1979. Times aren’t what they once were. The people are different, younger and groovier. Rock and roll is big and divisive, and everything is culminating together in this almost too real story that takes a look at what it means to be both a woman and a man. Annette Benning (AMERICAN BEAUTY) plays Dorothea, a middle-aged woman singlehandedly raising her only son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumman). While lenient in her parenting skills, Annette is protective of Jamie, constantly envious of those around him. “You get to see him out in the world as a person. I never well,” she says to Elle Fanning’s Julie, Jamie’s best friend, in a deeply touching exchange. But deep down, Annette is struggling. As Jamie continues to find himself in more and more compromising situations, Annette, behind Jamie’s back, decides to enlist help in raising her son.
20TH CENTURY WOMEN is an obscure, poignant and frequently beautiful movie capable of winning your affection and pulling on heartstrings. It’s moving in its ability to tell a fresh and relevant mother and son tale. It may be set in the 70s, but it’s just as relevant in the context of today’s society. Writer-director Mike Mills has a lot to say on parentage, adolescence, family relations, love and so much more. His screenplay dabbles between sweet, meaningful and funny, all wrapped around a quirky, upbeat plot and genuinely loveable characters.
You don’t have to look far to find an indie movie full of meaningful quotes, but 20TH CENTURY WOMEN is so much more than that. There’s wisdom amidst the madness, with a little bit of genius sprinkled throughout, and it’s delivered in a way that’s fresh and funky. The entire thing has a brilliant tempo to it. It isn’t slow, but it doesn’t necessarily delve straight into the plot, either. But there’s an explanation behind that. Part of the reason why this film is as marvelous as it is, is because it doesn’t need its plot to work. Sure, there’s things you can spoil, and I’d personally recommend avoiding such things, but even if you know how this all goes down, it’ll hit you just as the same. Knowing the final result doesn’t lessen the journey experienced along the way.
Every single cast member is fantastic; they all deserve the highest of recognitions. However, it’s Greta Gerwig who serves as the surprise heavy hitter. Gerwig brings to the film a sense of crazy. She’s an unhinged, freedom-seeking woman dealing with a whole handful of medical issues, and she rocks it. Gerwig has slowly risen up my radar in the last few years, especially her appearances in Noah Baumbach films. Here, she’s at the top of her game. Not only is this, I think, my favourite of her performances, but it’s also my favourite of her films.
You May Also Like: