Please listen to one of my favorite Jazz singer’s Gregory Porter as you read this blog:
The best thing a movie can do to you is make you realize, as Gregory Porter sings, that time is ticking. And 20th Century Women does just that, quietly sneaking up on you to say, “Pssst, what are you waiting for?”
20th Century Women was so great that it took a day to fully appreciate the film’s entirety. Truth be told, I went straight to work after and then on to a dinner meeting, but I’m glad the writing locomotive was slowed to give 20th Century Women its proper adoration.
20th Century Women was deeply moving. My friend Carrie and I were both in joyful appreciative tears at the film’s finale. And as a pseudo single mom of one son, I truly related to Annette Bening’s relationship with her son, young actor Lucas Jade Zumann.
Mike Mills, who basically wrote this from an autobiographical viewpoint, (as he also did with his relationship with his father in The Beginners)(see the recent New Yorker profile article, an exhibition of him as the man I most want to meet; sensitive, nerdy, but creatively courageous) does a very inventive job of portraying the late 70’s by using still photographs of punk bands along with real footage of such 70’s events like Jimmy Carter’s 1979 “Crisis of Confidence Speech”, of which I say, where was I? Oh yes, an ignorant 9th grader in a small American town in an apolitical household.
The speech interestingly parallels Annettes’s single mom, a woman without a backup as to whether she is providing her son with the best and well rounded child rearing experience. Just as Jimmy asks for America’s support, Annette seeks out others for help:
“Little by little we can and we must rebuild our confidence. We can spend until we empty our treasuries, and we may summon all the wonders of science. But we can succeed only if we tap our greatest resources — America’s people, America’s values, and America’s confidence.”
Annette Bening‘s search for outsiders lead her to two females for this tutelage. And while they were good, they were not fantastic. I was a huge Greta Gerwig fan to start, but now find her in that Ellen Degenres/Lena Dunham camp…meaning whatever candid part of them I appreciated has seemingly been washed away by their stardom and subsequent shallowness. And while Greta’s character seemed real enough, I just couldn’t buy it. Likewise, Elle Fanning was cute and believable as the teenage nymph, but again, I was not amazed.
Or it could be very possible that Billy Crudup just out shone them both, in his understated, but truly powerful rendition of a sensitive man, afraid to give his heart away, as he indeed gives his heart every day to the gaggle of women and children with whom he takes shelter.
There was a split second where I thought, ok Annette plays a competent woman with doubts…is that such a stretch from the real Annette Bening? And then I thought, nah! She’s the woman who ‘bagged’ Warren Beatty and got him to commit to a marriage and family. It is Annette Bening acting after all in a beautifully nuanced script that allows this vulnerability to shine through.
A great film makes you want to re-visit others. I’ll definitely revisit The Beginners and also look up some Crudup films that fell by the wayside.