Just in time for the inauguration, Mike Mills' 20TH CENTURY WOMEN hits theaters with a quiet shake of conventions. With its progressive themes and endearing characters, the semi-autobiographical film speaks volumes to this currently churning continent -- though it takes place in the 1970s, it is still thoroughly relatable today.
The story is narrated intermittently by its core characters, though the lead is taken by Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), who describes the women in his life who formed and influenced him. There is Dorothea (Annette Bening), Jamie's free-spirited single mother with an unfinished house and an internal struggle between autonomy and control; and then there is Abbie (Greta Gerwig), the punk-rock, 20-something photographer recovering from cervical cancer who rents a room in the house. And there is Jamie's best friend, Julie (Elle Fanning), who climbs the scaffolding to Jamie's room to sleep in his bed and just talk -- they never have sex, though she is freely exploring that realm with other boys.
In a household where freedom and autonomy is number one, Dorothea begins to worry as Jamie reaches his rebellious stage. She asks Abbie and Julie to help her raise Jamie to become a man -- a job which, she protests, does not need to be done by a man. What follows is a lovely, meandering story about chosen family, and feminism, and growing up.
20TH CENTURY WOMEN is light on the plot and heavy on the characters, making it a breeding ground for talent. Bening is a jewel, as usual, and Fanning and Gerwig give arguably their best performances to date. Zumann's performance is assuring, and hopefully he'll get some more roles thrown his way in the future. And Billy Crudup also gives a great performance as the other boarder in the house, the quiet but straightforward William who is helping Dorothea finish her house. The cast feels like a family, and that is what drives the story so deep into our hearts.
This is a great film, one to catch before other Oscar nominees crowd it out. 20TH CENTURY WOMEN is now playing at Midtown Cinema!