Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Now on Amazon Prime: 20th Century Women (2016)

20th Century Women (2016) - Written and Directed by Mike Mills; Starring Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Lucas Jade Zumann, Alia Shawkat.

By Kenny Howell

Mike Mills gave us the story of his father a few years back with the excellent Beginners, and now he turns to his mother's life.

While not quite as successful as the previous film, 20th Century Women is an interesting examination of a couple different generations of women, and the young man they helped form.

Annette Bening (Danny Collins) plays Dorothea, a woman trying to bring up a teenager in the 1970s. She runs a Bohemian style home, complete with two other roommates that help out around the house, and take care of her son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann).

Jamie is as confused as any young teenager his age, especially about women. He has a best friend, Julie, played by Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon). She often sneaks into his room after a night out and talks with him all night long. Jamie wants it to go farther, but Julie wants to just remain best friends, which is obviously frustrating and confusing for a young man his age.

Renting from Dorothea is Abbie, played by Greta Gerwig (Jackie). Abbie has been diagnosed with cancer, and is trying to work through it with her art, mostly photography. She is also very strong into the feminist movement of the era, and teaches it to Jamie to let him know how he should treat women.

Obviously, these women all teach him different things, and help him through his adolescence. Bening, Fanning and Gerwig are all fantastic in those roles, and really carry this when 20th Century Women occasionally seems a bit directionless. Beginners, Mills previous film about his father, had a tighter focus. His father had lived his life as a straight man all his life, but comes out as gay later in life. This hops around a bit as Jamie learns a bit from here and there, and the pieces of it are quite good, it just never felt like it came together as a whole. Still, the performances are quite good, and Mills has a knack for familial bonds, and finding those moments within his films.

20th Century Women is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Rating: ***

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