20th Century Women: Annette Bening shines in Mike Mills’ new film

Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig in 20TH CENTURY WOMEN. Photo by Merrick Morton, courtesy of A24.

Written and directed by Mike Mills, the semi-autobiographical film is set in 1979 and stars Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann, and Billy Crudup.

Bening has drawn acclaim for her role and rightly so. 20th Century Women provides her with an opportunity to lead a film. With such a strong crowd of women in leading roles in 2016, Bening just missed out on an Academy Award nomination.

Just as Bening was worthy of a nomination, Gerwig also delivers a strong performance in a supporting role. She was most recently seen in Jackie as a confidant of the First Lady.

Just as Beginners was inspired by Mills’ life, so was this film. They always say to write what you know so why not write something that is largely inspired by real-life events? 20th Century Women focuses on the female experience in the United States as the 20th Century released its final two decades.

Set in the Santa Barbara summer of 1979, Bening stars as Dorothea Fields, a single mom who is raising her son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). Fields calls upon the help of Baby Boomer punk artist Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Gen Xer Julie (Elle Fanning) to help raise her son. An unusual move for a mother, it shows how much she cares about him.

There are some interesting moves made as each character tells the audience what will happen to them down the road. Usually, these kind of things are shown at the end of the movie but that’s usually for movies based on a true story as opposed to a movie that is semi-biographical.

The film’s ensemble is tightly knit and even though they aren’t family, they are as close as one can be. At its heart, it is a love story between Dorothea and her son.

“I wanted to tell a story about the personal moments of grace within all that disruption and to look at how intimate mysteries twine with huge social forces,” Mills says of his film.

Not many men are able to bring a woman’s voice to the screen and to do so with three of them is tough. Joss Whedon seems to be one of the few men who can create strong females and bring them to either the big or small screens. Mill’s script is very solid and he deserves his Academy Award nomination as such.

A24 opened the film in limited release on December 28, 2016 before expanding in January.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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