One of the biggest crimes is that Annette Benning has still not won an Oscar. (And Hillary Swank has two, and beat her both times) She is one of the best actresses working today, and just take a look at her performance here in ’20th Century Women,’ playing Dorothea, a single mother to her son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) It is one of those lived-in roles, from the first scene you believe the authenticity of this character, and so wonderful to see an aging actress who is still naturally beautiful, seemingly without the help of botox and fillers. I mean, if for anything, she is even more beautiful than some actresses-of-a-certain-age working in Hollywood. And when she says something, you can always see the myriad of emotions in her reading, done so effortlessly.
In the film, Dorothea enlists the help of two other women, Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Julie (Elle Fanning) to help raise her son. The film is cut up in ‘biographies’ of these women. That, for me, is my beef with the film – there is a lot of character study in each of the women characters that a plot is almost lost in the mix. We get to know these women, but what of it? As a result, I could not relate to any of the characters and feel detached to the whole film. Elle Fanning mostly succeeds with her Jule, the young girl Jamie has a crush on, but Gerwig just annoyed me – I have this dislike of her an her acing, and she did not redeem herself her.
Set in 1979 Santa Barbara, the film looks and feels retro and dreamy, as if shot through an Instagram filter, and Director/Writer Mike Mills has a great flair for dialogue. I wish I liked it more, and felt sad I didn’t.