I had the great pleasure of seeing a sneak preview of Mike Mills' new film 20th Century Women. If you enjoyed his last film Beginners I think you'll love this.
Mike Mills is a graphic designer/illustrator turned writer-director, and it is this mix of designer and filmmaker that makes for a very individual vision. As in Beginners Mills uses wonderful graphic interventions to give both the back and future biographies of key characters, all produced in a beautifully choreograph way. He is also married to the equally talented Miranda July (above).
The film is set in Santa Barbara in the late 70's and focuses on, Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening), a wonderfully eccentric single mother, divorcée living in a dilapidated, but charmingly eclectic house where she lets two rooms to help make ends meet.
One is occupied by Abbie (Greta Gerwig) a free-spirited photographer/artist, feminist and lover of punk. The other tenant is a totally laid back ageing hippy car mechanic William (Billy Crudup).
Dorothea is in her mid-50s and has hit the adolescent years of her son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) at a time of cultural change, sexual politics and rebellion. Dorothea's main ambition is to turn Jamie into a caring, good person without the help or influence of a male partner.
Running into trouble she turns to Abbie and long term friend of Jamie's, Julie (Elle Fanning), a provocative teenage neighbour to teach Jamie the ways of the world. There follows a hilarious, bittersweet series of events that at their extremes are very challenging. The stand out performance comes from Annette Bening who is magnificent and totally believable.
It is so good to see actresses of a certain age getting leads like this and Bening gives a wonderfully nuanced performance. I hope she gets the credit and accolades she deserves for bringing this delightful character to life.
Mills' film is a humble low budget indy, whereas Allied, the new Brad Pitt film, co-starring Marion Cotillard is a huge budget Hollywood blockbuster. I also saw this and wished I hadn't. It is everything that 20th Century Women is not. Clichéd, predictable, sentimental, wooden, badly written, laboriously uninspired direction with lashings of syrupy music. All I can say is long live independent cinema.