Movie Blog Post: 20th Century Women

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

 20th Century Women Mike Mill's Movie about his mother

Tinsel & Tine's Look at Mike Mill's Mother
20th Century Women

By Le Anne Lindsay, Editor

Writer/Director Mike Mill’s semi-autobiographical movie 20th Century Women stars Annette Bening as Dorothea Fields a late in life mother raising a 15 year-old son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) in the late 1970’s in Santa Barbara CA. Their home purchased at auction was once a sprawling Victorian mansion, but is now barely livable, however little by little Dorothea is restoring the home with the help of a border William (Billy Crudup) a hippy who also restores vintage cars, he once tried to live on a commune but found that lifestyle too far out even for him. Dorethea wants Jamie and William to be friends, since her son’s father is barely ever present in Jamie’s life, she worries that he needs a male connection; but the two don’t hit it off.

So she decides to change tactics and enlist the help of another border, Abbie (Greta Gerwig) a photographer, feminist with dyed red hair tinged with fuchsia. And also Jamie’s childhood friend, a 17 year-old Julie (Elle Fanning) who Jamie is now interested in romantically, yet despite constant sleep overs in Jamie's bed and many sexual exploits with other boys in school, Julie wants things between she and Jamie to remain platonic.

In the six months before principal photography, Mills plied Bening with character aids including family photographs, jewelry (Bening wears his mother's bracelet onscreen) and cultural touchstones he hoped would inform her performance. "He gave me movies to watch, Stage Door and Humphrey Bogart movies. I talked to his sister, who's an astrological reader. And Mike and I talked about his mom a lot. Endlessly. We're still talking about his mom," she says with a laugh. Fanning's homework for her role involved reading the 1978 psycho-spirituality best-seller The Road Less Traveled and highlighting the passages her character would have found most fascinating. Crudup's preparation to play the sweet-natured burnout handyman entailed learning pottery, repairing vintage Volkswagen Bugs and apprenticing with a building contractor. READ MORE by Chris Lee The Hollywood Reporter 

Mothers are Inscrutable beings to their sons, always - A.E. Coppard

The director’s bigger misstep, however, is attempting to take on seemingly every aspect of human existence. Obviously, there are women’s issues: fertility, the introduction of home pregnancy tests, the key to sexual pleasure, and, in one particularly uncomfortable dinner scene, menstruation. But Mills also covers loneliness, life expectations, the impending internet, fear of commitment, Y2K, illness—the list goes on... READ MORE by Tricia Olszewski Washington City Paper

T&T Does Not Agree... All these topics fit into the story and tone of the movie, I never felt it was reaching to do too much.

Christoper Plummer in Beginners
Mike Mill’s also wrote and directed Beginners (click for T&T post) in 2011, which was also semi-autobiographical starring Ewan Macgregor as a son dealing with his 70 year-old father coming out as a gay man. That role won Christopher Plummer a Best Supporting Oscar.

Annette Bening (Grifters, Bugsy, American Beauty, Being Julia, The Kids Are All Right & most recently Rules Don’t Apply)  “I’m always trying to get out of clichés of portraits of women,” Ms. Bening said over kale and eggs on a December morning at the Bowery Hotel in New York, adding that she is uninterested in “idealizing women” because “that’s so boring.”  READ MORE  by Logan Hill The New York Times

Annette Bening getting praise for 20th Century Women 2017

Bening has two more movies coming out this year. Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool with Jamie Bell (Tin Tin & Billy Elliot) based on the memoir of British actor Peter Turner and follows his passionate relationship with an older eccentric Award-winning actress Gloria Grahame. Then she also plays a fading actress (Irina Arkadina) in an adaptation of a Cheov play The Seagull which also stars Saoirse (Ser-sha) Ronan (Brooklyn), who will also star in Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut due out later this year, a high school comedy called Lady Bird.

Bottom line: Annette Bening has a very nuanced role in 20th Century Women, on the one hand she’s a Birkenstock wearing liberal, who is open to the changing world; and on the other, she’s a product of a more conservative time when parents didn’t really allow their children to really get to know them. She very interested in Jamie’s well-being and how his world is being shaped, but all Jamie really wants to know is how his mother feels about her own life and that’s just off-limits to him and the other characters who seem to take turns trying to analyze Dorothea - “Wondering if you’re happy is just a great shortcut to being depressed.” 

T & T's LAMB (movie bloggers association) Score: 3 outta 5

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

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