20th Century Women: Do You Need a Man to Raise a Man?

This is the question ostensibly posed by our first entry in Oscar Binge ’17, Mike Mills’ (writer/director) 20th Century Women. And the answer seems to be no? Through this memoir set in 1979 Santa Barbara, we get a skewed view of his mother, the son, the young women (one of whom is the magnificent Greta Gerwig), the live-in handyman and all the quirkiness occupying their lives.

The film gives us photographic glimpses from anecdote to anecdote, frame to frame, voiceover to voiceover and less through a linear plot.  So I’ll offer my random stream of thoughts in a similar fashion…

The kid is a relative newcomer and seems to struggle with 15. Never explain the female orgasm to a skate punk and expect to come out unscathed.

The color separation car ride thing is odd and doesn’t make a ton of sense unless everyone is high all the time. Or I was supposed to be…

My reaction to Annette Benning’s performance seems to be an outlier: I didn’t love it or feel she was robbed of the Oscar nomination. This is her film but seems to be trying so hard to be this free spirit.

Men seem to like this portrayal more than the women that I’ve talked to and I put this down to the filmmaker showing his mom (and the other women) to us through his lens of memory and reality.

Elle Fanning always looks like she about to start, just finished, or is actually crying. Her character is woefully un-formed but has a couple of nice speeches.

Really, really short review: Interesting but feels like we snuck a copy of Mills’ diary and not so much a fully-formed film.


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