20th Century Women is the film Boyhood SHOULD have been.  I’m not saying Boyhood was bad, but it didn’t deliver as high of an emotional impact for me personally.  Every generation will find something to relate to in this film, even though it takes place in 1979 primarily.  Some things are universal, like mothers who try their hardest to learn about their children but can’t quite get over their own issues in order to really grow, and the children wanting NEEDING to learn about life and who they are without too much parental influence.

Jamie (Lucas Jade Zimman) is a 15 year old boy living with his mother Dorothea (Annette Bening) in big giant turn of the century house currently being renovated with the help of live-in handyman William (Billy Crudup).  Their other roommate Abbie (Greta Gerwig), is just beginning to get over surviving cervical cancer, and pursuing her passion of music and photography.  Jamie’s best friend Julie (Elle Fanning) is the 17 year old daughter of a therapist, who of course knows more about the world than almost anyone else in the house.  She sneaks in every night to sleep in Jamie’s bed, although refusing to “do it” with him because she knows it’ll ruin their special friendship.

Bening, Gerwig, and Fanning discuss helping raise Jamie.
Bening, Gerwig, and Fanning discuss helping raise Jamie.

Dorothea enlists the help of Abbie and Julie to usher Jamie into his adulthood, a choice she regrets somewhat when Jamie starts reading to her from feminist tomes.  Even the use of those passages is masterful, nothing is too ‘out there’ really, and every bit Jamie reads outloud is something important to the character who hears it.

20th Century Women is a brilliant piece of family life, maybe not the picture perfect family of the time, but a REAL one which is much harder to put on film well.  Writer/Director Mike Mills gives audiences this gift of a highly biographical tale, peppered with voice overs of the characters giving us background and a glimpse into their futures. There is beauty, there is humor, there is a sense of present times too, many thematic elements are completely relevant right now.

With such a strong ensemble cast, it’s no surprise the performances are as masterful as they are.  Elle Fanning continues to grow in her chosen element, delivering such a worldly and wise turn as Julie you’ll be shocked to remember she’s as young as she is.  Annette Bening is wonderful, you want to root for her as a mother and a woman, even though you know she’s a bit broken. Greta Gerwig gives us enchanting, and moving and strong in a role that could’ve gone pretty silly pretty fast.  Billy Crudup plays this type of guy extremely well, think of him as Russell from Almost Famous after he came home from the tour, but more hippie.  I cannot wait to see what Lucas Jade Zimman does next, if this role is any indication of his talent, we’ll hopefully be seeing more great things from him.

There is also a BITCHIN soundtrack.

SCORE: 5 OUT OF 5, will see again and again and again

THIS is the film that should have swept the Golden Globes instead of La La Land, this is probably one of the best films I’ll see in 2017.  (I would say aside from Hidden Figures, but I saw that in 2016 so I can’t.)  I really cannot say enough good things about 20th Century Women, because it gives me hope for the state of modern cinema, that stories like this will be told, and told well.

20th Century Women opens worldwide on January 13th, 2017.

ABOUT >> Mary Anne Butler
  • BIO >> Mary Anne Butler (Mab) is a reporter and photographer from San Francisco California. She is a lifelong geek, huge music nerd, occasionally cosplays at conventions, does Renaissance Faires, and in general lives the life of a True Believer. She may be short, but she makes up for it with a loud voice.
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