20th Century Women is a thought provoking look at what it takes to be a man in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) is 15 and lives with his mother, Dorothea (Annette Bening), Abbie (Greta Gerwig), and William (Billy Crudup). Their house is beautiful but in need of repair, clearly a metaphor for all the characters in the film and probably deeper meaning of people in general. His best friend, and the love of his life, Julie (Elle Fanning) is a frequent visitor in his house, but strictly platonic. The women in Jamie’s lives all have committed to making sure he becomes a good man, but each have their own idea of what he needs in order to do that.
20th Century Women is a solid film
Each character gets a backstory montage of sorts and they each are interesting. Abbie is the stand out character and the best performance by Greta Gerwig so far. She’s very different than in “Maggie’s Plan” or Mistress America. Abbie is a punk rock girl and a feminist who is is definitely influencing Jamie. Her back story is simple and compelling, but her character is definitely a little complex.
Jamie is a relatable character, but the story really seems to belong to Dorothea. She wants to make sure Jamie ends up happier than she is, but has a unique take on parenting. Dorothea is strict, but she is also extremely loving and allows for a lot of freedom to express himself. It’s clear their relationship is strained as he is slowly becoming a man, and that scares her. The performance by all involved is pretty great. The ways the characters interact are believable and compelling.
20th Century Women is a film that may require a second watch to really extract the point of it all. There are some interesting filmmaking choices by Mike Mills, like using stock photos from the 70s and the voice over narration that kicks in at a few moments. Even though it was entertaining it didn’t quite do anything to remarkable. 20th Century Women earns the Decent Watch rating.