Some films are too indie for their own good. Truly push things. Push being smarter than your average bear. Push being cutting edge without using money. In the end, push viewers away. The best indie films can be small slices of life and smrt without alienating anyone watching. Director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker, Beginners) has made a career out of understanding that. His films do not involve huge budgets or the like, but because of the quality attract big actors like Tilda Swinton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor, and Goran Visnjic. No actor who has “made” it is going to do an indie film (take less money, feel the pressure of only having one or two takes at things, etc.) unless the man behind the camera has a good reputation and vision.
This time up he has Elle Fanning, Billy Crudup, Greta Gerwig, and the always marvellous Annette Bening. Actors/actresses from several different generations make up the cast of a film which tells the story of a mother-son relationship. A son who has to deal or exist within a world made up of several influential women.
It is just Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann – Sinister 2) and his mom, Dorothea (Annette Bening – American Beauty, The American President). Has always been that way. Now that Jamie is a teenager his mom worries that he needs more than her. More women in his life. So, she asks Abbie (Greta Gerwig – Frances Ha, Isle of Dogs), the young woman renting a room in her house, and Jamie’s best friend/love interest, Julie (Elle Fanning – Teen Spirit, Maleficent), to help “raise” Jamie.
Seems like a solid idea. Women of different generations, who can relate to the teenager on different levels. Plus there is always the male presence in William (Billy Crudup – Almost Famous, The Good Shepherd), the guy renovating the house.
An example of an idea seeming better than its actual execution. Turns out that Jamie cannot handle all this female energy. All their relationships begin to unravel. Slowly at first and then with a quick burst.
Set in the late 1970s, 20th Century Women is a rather dialogue heavy film infused with emotion. Sentiment without getting sentimental. Executed well it makes you feel all warm inside rather than wanting to roll your eyes. This is a result of a director and cast who have injected plenty of realism into every little moment which happens.
Throughout you will be on the edge of feeling like almost nothing is happening, yet by the end will be affected by all that did. Good filmmaking and acting do that. Just a slice of life. Maybe not exactly life as you experience(d) it, but will enough similarities it will feel recognizable.
As Mills was a music video director (done videos for Moby, Pulp and Martin Gore of Depeche Mode) it should not come as a surprise that the music in the film is amazing. Perfectly matched to the scenes and amplifies your enjoyment. Enjoy snippets of Devo, Black Flag and Talking Heads.
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Mike Mills
- “Making 20th Century Women”
- “20th Century Cast”