Growing Up In A Hurry
20th Century Women
Stars: Annette Bening, Lucas Jade Zumann, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning, Billy Crudup, Alia Shawkat, Darrell Britt-Gibson and Thea Gill
Director/Scriptwriter: Mike Mills
Composer: Roger Neill
Cinematographer: Sean Porter
Rating: R for mature themes, sexuality and discussions about sex
Running Length: 118 minutes
Just like Meryl Streep who gets a good movie role every year and makes the most of it, Annette Bening does the same, and this year it is Dorothea, the mother of a teenage son, Jamie (played by newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann). This mother-son relationship has it’s highs and lows and such is the premise of “20th Century Women,” who gather together to raise a child. The story is by director/writer Mike Mills (“Beginners”) and loosely based on his life.
Dorothea rents out rooms in her large house to make ends meet. It is the 1970’s and she has to provide the necessities for teenage son, Jamie. Within the confines of the house live Abbie (Greta Gerwig), who is dealing with cancer and late-teen, Julie (Elle Fanning in quite a role) who stays in the house to keep away from her parents. Also in the mix is William (Billy Crudup) who ends up being the handyman, car mechanic, carpenter and all-around I-will-listen-to-anyone type of person. There is humor in this situation, such as Julie using the outside house wall to sneak into Jamie’s room, or the car that doesn't always want to start. With so many women of various ages around, it’s a wonder Jamie can think about anything other than girls. This is where Dorothea calls a meeting with the other two female residents, and asks their help with Jamie. We go from one situation to another with the residents, from talking cancer to talking parents to household repairs. Beware of some of the topics discussed and this is an adult film. Humor is provided by Dorothea’s sometime militant attitude, as when she is stopped by the police, refuses to answer questions and ends up in jail.
Annette Bening makes Dorothea into a patient person overrun with responsibilities who loves her son, but also needs free time for herself. She just can't let go---not just yet. Gerwig’s Abbie puts finality into the mix with her talk of treatments, while Elle‘s Julie, though sexually active in the film, finds it boring and wants to do something with her life. Sex just happens to be there. It is Jamie, as played by Lucas Jade Zumann, who gets your attention. He loves Julie, but she wants friendship. Frustration is always present. Billy Crudup’s William comes on the scene at just the right time to repair something, but it always releases the tension in the room. Everyone’s timing is well placed.
“20th Century Women” brings you back into the 1970’s period, even with President Jimmy Carter speeches on television. The music soundtrack carries the mood along and the large, old house is really part of this extended family, too, as is the old car. It all fits together. If you grew up in a family predominantly of women of all ages, this film will be like looking back in time. When it comes to mother-son relationships, there is give-and-take and most of all, love.
Copyright 2017 Marie Asner