REVIEW – 20TH CENTURY WOMEN – Annette Benning shines in this witty and original dramedy.
Mike Mills new film 20th Century Women manages the unique feat of being a fresh blast of nostaligia. Annette Benning plays Dorothea – a Virginia Woolf-y name if ever there was one – a single mother who is bringing her child Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) up in the seventies with the help of her lodgers Greta Gerwig and Billy Cudrup as well as platonic friend Julie, played by Elle Fanning. The alternative family has been seen before, recently in Captain Fantastic and previously in The Royal Tenenbaums, but 20th Century Women isn’t about wish-fulfilling quirk. There’s a seriousness behind the frequently hilarious wit. Both a longing for a lost time, but also a sense of how different life really was. A pregnancy test involves byzantine instructions and hours of tension.
Each character is given space to really grow and interact. There’s a sense of time similar to that found in the writing of James Salter. From a moment in the immediate now, we can suddenly find ourselves twenty – thirty years in the future. Time folds so that for once the nostalgia actually deserves the tragic sense it sometimes has. The soundtrack featuring early Talking Heads among others likewise has a vibrancy and wit to match the movie. The feminism of the piece is lightly worn, with a kind of ‘no-shit-Sherlock’ nonchalance and a timely reminder of the good Planned Parenthood has been doing for decades.