20th Century Women

Highly-touted and well-loved by some, I was really looking forward to this new offering from director Mike Mills, with a fine cast including Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig.

Alas, I was disappointed into a torpor of self-indulgent film making that forgot to do the basics, like working out what or who the hell the film was supposed to be about.

An ensemble piece, sure, it’s set in a renovated mansion/commune in 1979 Santa Barbara, where free-spirit Dorothea (Bening) brings up her teenage son Jamie with the help of other women, including kooky art student Gerwig and bruised local beauty Fanning, who sleeps in Jamie’s bed but insists on keeping it platonic while she bonks half the other boys in the neighbourhood.

Poor Jamie has to suffer this crap, with only the hapless Billy Crudup as male support. Meanwhile we, the audience, are supposed to feel… I’m not sure what. It’s rarely funny and I think Mills knows, otherwise he wouldn’t keep speeding the film up with time-lapse photography and langorous shots of Jamie skateboarding.

Bening’s The Kids Are All Right, to which this bears similar California roots and feminist themes, was far superior, funnier and more characterful. And even in the sharpest character studies, something does have to happen and honestly here, after an hour I was looking at my watch, still waiting for anything resembling a dramatic incident.

It’s an insult that this alleged tribute to strong women is actually about nothing at all.

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