Love, life, and the struggles of a mother bringing up a son in the the late 70's. The ignorance of a free spirit against the needs of a young man trying to find his true character and beliefs. Living in a bohemian household shared with 3 like minded spirited people to help pay the rent, his mother tries to establish bonds that he cannot deal with. She cannot deal with his inability to talk, and enlists the help of other females in his life to share the burden of his upbringing. Slowly life unravels for them all without understanding how. In spite of their perceived struggles, they all go on to live defined lives without any serious consequences.Written by
Dorothea is variously depicted discussing her stock portfolio with her son Jamie, quoting NYSE share prices in decimals, doing this in 1979. However, the switch to decimal from fractional stock prices in the U.S. did not occur until the year 2000. See more »
"20th Century Women" is too personal to appeal to the masses and too insignificant to deserve two hours of your time.
Mike Mills is a music video producer, graphic designer and writer/director of documentaries and feature films. He has made music videos for Yoko Ono, Moby and Air. He has done album art for the Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth and Ol' Dirty Bastard. He also makes posters and fabrics as part of a series of works called "Humans by Mike Mills". Why this biographical sketch of Mike Mills? Well, it might help you understand his films. Two of the first three features that he wrote and directed (not counting 2005's "Thumbsucker") are semi-autobiographical. His 2010 film, "Beginners" is about his father who came out as gay late in life (a role which won Christopher Plummer an Oscar). Mills' 2016 feature, "20th Century Women" (R, 1:59), is about his mother, a role that earned Annette Benning some awards season love.
In 1979 Santa Barbara, Dorothea (Bening) only has one child and she's divorced from the boy's father, but she still has a house full of people. Besides her 15-year-old son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), there's the boarder she took in, a 20-something photographer and cancer survivor named Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and William (Billy Crudup), the middle-aged handyman who is gradually renovating Dorothea's 75-year-old house. Then, last but not least, there's 17-year-old Julie (Elle Fanning), who doesn't technically live in the house but might as well, as she often climbs in through Jamie's bedroom window to talk and sleep with him, as part of a very close but platonic friendship. Dorothea also frequently invites near-strangers over for dinner, such as someone she meets at a music club or local firemen who help her out of a jam.
As a mother, 55-year-old Dorothea is loving and devoted, but also insecure and kind of clueless. She's deeply concerned about raising her son to be "a good man" in the absence of a regular male influence. (She rarely dates and William and Jamie don't really connect.) Dorothea's solution is to ask Abbie and Julie to help her raise her son. She wants Julie to look out for Jamie and Abbie to share her life with him. Both are a bit confused by the request, but agree to do what they can. Abbie lends Jamie some feminist books from a college class she took, Julie teaches Jamie to smoke like a man, and neither of them is shy about talking with Jamie about sex. Jamie keeps insisting that he's fine, but his world does begin to expand, just as his mother also comes out of her comfort zone to experience more of the modern age.
"20th Century Women" is boring and basically pointless. The film is billed by Mills as a love letter to the women who raised him. (Besides Bening's portrayal of Mills' mother, Gerwig's character is loosely based on Mills' sister.) Most of us were raised by a mother and/or had strong, loving female influences in our lives to whom we owe a great deal, but few of us would expect people to sit for two hours learning about the women who nurtured us. It's not that Dorothea is uninteresting as a character, but she doesn't come off as any more interesting than my own mother, for example. What's more, there doesn't seem like there's much to learn from Dorothea's permissive and scattershot parenting style and, excepting the epilogue voice-overs at the end of the film, none of the characters really grow much – or have the potential to inspire us very much. The acting is excellent (especially Bening), but that does little to entertain when it's in the service of an otherwise unimpressive film. "C-"
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