Understanding the ladies in your life. So this is about a single mother (Annette Bening) who enlists the help of a tenant (Greta Gerwig) and a young lady friend (Elle Fanning) to raise her teenage son (Lucas Jade Zumann). This is another one of those movies that I went out of my way to check out solely due to the Oscar consideration that it is receiving. It’s from acclaimed director Mike Mills, who hit home with critics previously with Beginners. Much like that movie, I will say that 20th Century Women is well made enough, but it isn’t the type of movie that I actively seek out.
So what if I’m giving the old, “it’s not you, it’s me” speech?
Now this is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination; it is collecting heaps of critical praise, and it is relatively easy to identify why. While this may be made by a male writer/director, the feminine voice is prevalent here, and ready to be heard. Beginners was made because his father came out of the closet at an old age, and this was made because he was raised by women, so there is definitely something to be said about writing what you know. The cinematography is noticeably good as well; there are many shots that look remarkably well composed, and it is pieced together in a pleasing fashion. Also the cast that they put together is filled to the brim with underappreciated quality actors and actresses. It is really Bening’s movie and she is the best thing about this, but it would have been much more difficult if she didn’t have Indie favorites Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning to play off of, as well as the always welcome Billy Crudup and newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann. All of these quality elements are featured, and yet, I still have a big disconnect because this is a slice of life movie that ambles.
Bening’s performance is enough for me to elevate this a rating above the rest, though.
I don’t regret watching this movie, but I am highly unlikely to ever find the desire to watch this again. The relationship between the boy and his mom is compelling, but I have personally lived through enough friend-zones to not really need to see it be such a focus on the big screen. I do like how there are many a moments where it breaks it down with females getting real about sex, and I also like the realization of a mother who it dawns upon that she needs to let her son grow up, but that doesn’t change the fact that I grew restless in this two hour movie. There is nothing wrong with this film, and more power to you if you connected with it, but for me, I watched this distantly.
20th Century Women (2016) ***
– Critic for Hire