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Substance and style in 20th Century Women

20th Century Women follows Dorothea (Annette Bening), a single mom raising her son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) and renting rooms in her house to Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and William (Billy Crudup).

Though the movie is not deeply moving or emotional, it is full of realistic characters in situations to which many people can relate. There is an overabundance of coming of age moments, a wide range of different kinds of relationships, and a very topical comment on the American dream.

In spite of the movie’s title and three leading ladies, the female characters endure many hardships that seem to happen just to serve as learning experiences for Jamie. He comes to learn about feminism, relationships, money, and his role in society and the lives of people around him through the trying times of these women.

The movie was anchored by Bening’s solid performance as a single mother struggling to raise her teenage son in the 1970s. Gerwig’s aggressive and memorable performance will stay with anyone who’s had even the slightest rebellious phase, defending their choices in music and trying to find themselves. The two supporting men in the movie Crudup and Zumann were perfectly cast for their characters. However, Elle Fanning’s acting and character left something to be desired.

The cinematography and film editing are wonderfully done. The filmmakers employ an interesting technique called “chromatic aberration,” a stunning form of colour manipulation. Voiceovers used for world and character building are an unusual effect, but very well done and a technique that should be used more. With a script full of great lines and subtle nuances that would be hard for a cast full of new actors to pull off, it is easy to see why the film is nominated for an Academy Award Best Original Screenplay.

With a cast full of familiar faces, 20th Century Women is an experience. A quiet, artistic experience that seems to be missing the grandeur we have come to expect from movies. And for this reason, it is vastly uncomfortable. Instead of being on a grand adventure, here the characters are simple, ordinary, everyday people that could be your neighbours in any city, in any country of the world.

Starring: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Lucas Jade Zumann, Alison Elliott

Director: Mike Mills

Runtime: 119 min

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