‘20th Century Women’ film review
By Jessica Berget, Staff Writer
This Friday marked the Canadian release of director Mike Mills’ indie comedy/drama 20th Century Women, and if you saw this great film on its opening weekend, your ticket proceeds went to an even greater cause. Thanks to A24, the studio behind the movie, 5 per cent of the revenue was donated to Planned Parenthood, an organization that plays an important part in the film’s story and production.
20th Century Women opens with Dorothea (Annette Bening), her son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), and, in a seemingly metaphorical instance, a car bursting into flames in a grocery store parking lot. The year is 1979, and the age of Fred Astaire and suburban traditionalism—or in other words, life as Dorothea knows it—is rapidly coming to an end.
Dorothea is a single mother living in a Santa Barbara boarding house with Jamie, hippie handyman William (Billy Crudup), and punk feminist photographer Abbie (played by the enchanting Greta Gerwig). When Dorothea realizes she’s losing touch with the modern world and her 15-year-old son, she decides to ask Abbie and Julie (Elle Fanning), her son’s best friend and neighbour, to become role models and help raise her son into the next phase of his life: adulthood. Together they help turn Jamie into “a good man,” and reciprocally, Jamie helps them through their experiences of womanhood. He accompanies Abbie to the hospital to find out if she has cervical cancer, and then later buys Julie her first pregnancy test.
With the combination of great actors, a sensational soundtrack, hilarious dialogue, and stunning cinematography, 20th Century Women is a delight in every sense of the word. Music plays a vital role in the film as Abbi introduces Jamie to the world of punk music and frequents the punk rock night clubs. Music is also used to illustrate the time and cultural differences between Dorothea and her son, or seemingly, the rest of the world. “They know they’re not good, right?” she responds after hearing Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” for the first time.
No recent mainstream film has grappled with early punk rock music or feminist ideology with such vigor like 20th Century Women has, and I doubt any film will do it again. The character of Abbie is the beacon of feminist reason as she introduces Jamie to all-female punk bands and feminist literature such as “The Second Sex” and “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” a book that gets Jamie into a fight after he baffles one of his male peers about clitoral stimulation in one of the funniest scenes in the film. 20th Century Women is incredible in every sense of the word. It is not only a film for punk rock lovers and feminists; it is a film for people from all walks of life.