1. 20th Century Women was a delightful surprise for me. I didn’t really want to go see it. The title didn’t appeal to me - who wants to watch a movie titled whatever- women? After the horror of "The Women" and the much, much better but still not very enjoyable Certain Women, I felt like I had it with whatever-women movies. Plus the description: "a single mom parents her teenage son along with two young women who help her " made me worry even more. And then I saw the name Greta Gerwig. Miss Gerwig usually makes me feel really irritated with movies she is in, since I find her performance insufferable. Not for a lack of talent, she certainly is a very talented lady, but something about her usual manners rubs me to wrong way. And its hard to say why. Maybe it is because more often than not she is cast as somewhat neurotic (and to me one-dimensional, therefore uninteresting) basket case. And I was afraid it was going to be the same this time around.
2. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. On everything. The movie broke the spell of whatever-women flicks being bad. The description of the plot, while accurate, cannot communicate the beauty of the film and the depth of the characters portrayed in it. So: don’t be put off by it, there is no need. And no, you do not need to be a woman or a feminist, to enjoy the movie. It’s a "normal" coming of age film. While the movie does mention the word “feminism“ quite often, it is not a "feminist" movie (certainly not in the misused scary way), and what’s more important - it can make fun of itself, its female protagonists and even feminism. A quality that, I find, the real-life examples of feminists often seem to lack.
|there seems to be a slight hormonal imbalance in this room|
3. But the best surprise for me was Greta Gerwig. The same woman who made me walk out of two film screenings already (Frances Ha and Maggie’s Plan) was one of the best things in the movie. It seems that with her role of Abbie, the feminist, punker, friend and a babysitter in one, she was finally allowed to portray a character that wasn’t supposed to be irritating. She has made a step toward this in Jackie already, but completed the transition here in the 20th Century Women. I marveled in her beautifully calming yet plot stirring and powerful presence in every scene she was in.
4. Many talk about Bening’s performance in this piece. And don’t get me wrong, it was great. I especially appreciated her almost naked face, which I still find as enticing as it was in 1989 in Forman’s Valmont. But Annette Bening is simply wonderful in everything. She was awesome even in the shitty Women film that portrayed women as sad caricatures of themselves. The fact this 4 times Oscar nominated actress hasn’t won the award yet is ridiculous, and I believe 20th Century Women should have taken home more nominations than just the one for the best original screenplay.
5. Now, it is kind of ironic that such a marvelous film about women was written and directed by a guy. But in the end that doesn’t matter. Mike Mills brought us a powerful film, that had an amazing ensemble cast, where even Elle Fanning was given a chance to truly shine in a quality movie, after a series of questionable choices this talented actress (or her agent) has made.
6. When you consider this is only a third full-feature movie from Mike Mills, whose previous work includes the (also semi-biographic) Beginners, a high-quality shtick about his father, a long time closeted gay, who only finds courage to come out in his late seventies, you have to admire how much got accomplished with so little experience in full feature movie making. The only other example I can think of from recent history is the revelation that is Tom Ford as a director, who’s Single man as well as Nocturnal Animals were both amazingly well done. And maybe it is no coincidence - because Mills also dabbles in design (albeit graphic design) and his eye for visual beauty shows in his movies as well.
|whats wrong officer, the female is not driving, don't worry!|
7. There is not much point talking about the plot of 20th Century Women. You must experience it for yourself. It’s a light drama with light comedy combined, its magical, gentle, yet powerful. A story about Dorothea, a single mother trying to do the best for her teenage son, I think describes it the best. One of the scenes closer to the end offers something unique and rare to see in movies these days: when Dorothea (Bening) explains to her teenage son Jamie why she did what she did, watch out for his answer. Spoiler: where the son says he was fine as he was, and he is fine being brought up by just a single mother. To me that was one of the highlights of the script, along with the reason that Julie (Fanning) gives as for why she has sex with (presumably so many) guys and the scene where young Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann - what a clap back after the horrible Sinister 2) reads about female orgasms and other hard-core feminism stuff to his mother. Film: 8, Genre: 9. Entertainment value: 10
|True romance. Minus the Bates motel weirdness.|
8. What I didn’t like about this movie? Apart from its somewhat bland title? Nothing. For me it wasn’t too slow, for me it didn’t lack anything, it didn’t focus too much on a past era, and it certainly didn’t portray women as peripheral. Yes, it wasn’t some unique piece of filmmaking that would redefine cinematography or its genre, sure, but it was so well crafted and presented, and so endearing and human, that the word "art" really belongs to it in my eyes.
9. What I liked about the movie? The cast did a great job. Billy Crudup as Dorothea’s friend and tenant was a good choice. In a completely different role after his serious reporter in Jackie. The cinematography was intriguing. (Sean Porter - Greenroom). The music in the movie was a big part of the movie's appeal for me, and not just because its set in the seventies and has a great soundtrack. I also enjoyed both the light and dark humor in the film. Be it talking about menstruation at a dinner table, in one of the least obnoxious scenes including menstruation that ever made it on screen, or when the teenage boys talk about how to make women cum and why it might be a good idea - it always felt served at the right moment with just about right amount of cringe and laughter to go with it.
|but...I dont even know what menstruation is...|
10. Who is this movie for? For everyone who likes seemingly simple stories talking about seemingly simple matters from our everyday life. For those who liked the movie Paterson, (directed by Jim Jarmush) but wished it had a bit more humor in it. For those that grew up with single mothers. For those that have sisters. For those that have any women around them or were young once. For those that like the music from the seventies and want to see what life in California was like back then. And for those that just want to enjoy a good filmmaking for 2 hours, without realizing the movie really has 120 minutes.
|where is my Oscar?|