Posted Feb 10 2017
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20th Century Women - This Coming Of Age For All Concerned Movie Rocks

Dir: Mike Mills

Starring Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Billy Crudup, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann

In his last movie, writer-director Mike Mills (no, not the bass player from REM) looked at the life of his father and the impact his coming out at the age of 75 had on the family, his son Mills in particular.

Here we find Mills' mother getting the semi-autobiographical treatment, in an extremely well written and performed to perfection comedy-drama, that is at once bittersweet, life affirming, nostalgic and completely relevant.

Bening is the matriarch, a latter day semi-hippy in 1979 Santa Barbara, raising a son as best she can (Mills’ stand-in Zumann), surrounded by young women (Gerwig), young girls (Fanning) and wayward labourers (Crudup), all struggling to find their way in the world under Benning’s own under repair roof.

It’s a coming of age story and not just for the son/narrator but for the women and men that all take some part in his raising, all of whom are experiencing this pivotal, personal time of change in America. (Watch out for Jimmy Carter.)

You could accuse Mills’ film of meandering at times, but what he does so successfully is present a full group of characters that you enjoy spending equal time with. As strong as Bening is here, Crudup is on his game to match her, as beguiling as Fanning (always) is, Gerwig delivers her best performance in ages as the troubled punk of the group. All of them are provided with smart, insightful but always genuine dialogue from Mills, and all know how to play as an ensemble, supporting each other with their performances.

With a great period soundtrack that ranges from Talking Heads to Bowie to Suicide to Devo to Fred Astaire and beyond, 20th Century Women is often very funny, genuinely very moving but also light enough to know just how small – yet perfectly formed- it’s everyday slice of life really is.

 

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