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Review: 20th Century Women

20th Century Women
12.22.2016
4 10

PLOT: Three different women explore life and love in Southern California during the late Seventies.

REVIEW: There was promise here. 20TH CENTURY WOMEN offers up a solid cast with an exciting new filmmaker and an intriguing subject. In fact, there is likely going to be Academy Award buzz when it comes to acting nods in this story of three different women living in Southern California during the late Seventies. The biggest problem here is that it was difficult to feel much for anyone involved. Whether it is the ultra serious Annette Bening or the wacky Greta Gerwig, their work is fine but the characters they play are at times quite frustrating.

Dorothea (Bening) is a single mother trying desperately to raise her son the best she can. She does have a little help from a young photographer that lives with them named Abbie (Gerwig). However, things are complicated for teenage Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) when it comes to growing up without a father. He even shares an unusual relationship with pretty Julie (Elle Fanning) who constantly sleeps over, yet sex is never involved. And then there is William (Billy Crudup), a friend that Dorothea hopes will bring a little fatherly influence to her son.

2017 20th century women alia shawkat annette bening billy crudup comedy drama elle fanning greta gerwig mike mills

As much as I appreciate the amazing talent on-screen, the script - written by director Mike Mills - fails to deliver a story that I cared to hear. Dorothea is a well meaning and loving mother and Bening gives a good show, but something about her never connects. The relationship with her son is slightly uninspired and her own dim understanding of him and those around her is tiresome. Much like BEGINNERS was based on Mills father, this takes a look at the filmmaker's own mother. Unfortunately, it is a meandering, and at times, dull experience that rarely delves much deeper than a Hallmark card.

As a fan of Gerwig, the role of Abbie is one of the least successful examinations. The David Bowie fan is flighty and a little too precious. She is usually quite good at playing a character a little lost in the world, but there is nothing new here. This is not a bad performance, just an empty character. Elle Fanning fares slightly better with her free spirited teenager Julie. Ms. Fanning works well with Zumann, offering what felt like the only truly honest relationship. Perhaps if the focus had been placed on them, it would have made for a more engaging movie going experience.

This is the kind of film that is more of a slice of life, and that is fine. Unfortunately, if that life doesn’t resonate with you then it will surely disappoint. Bening is always terrific, so she’s not the issue here. In fact, the actors aren’t the issue at all. However, the world that has been painted around them and the characters they play rarely leave an impression. Almost immediately after the credits, it was a real challenge to remember what I had just watched.

2017 20th century women alia shawkat annette bening billy crudup comedy drama elle fanning greta gerwig mike mills  

20TH CENTURY WOMEN offers real talent with a great cast, yet it is ultimately a slight and forgettable film. Aside from the charming scenes involving Fanning and Zumann, there was little here that I truly appreciated. It is well shot and its heart appears to be in the right place. I just wish there was more to connect to than just a bunch of characters rambling on about life and what they are looking for from it. This may work for some for sure, so good on you if it does.

Source: JoBlo.com

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