20th Century Women wins the prize for 2016 movie least likely to be seen by an adolescent boy if all he knew about it was the title (second place goes to The Accountant). Several people asked me “what’s that even about?” when I mentioned seeing it last weekend, and another simply assumed it was a documentary. It’s not a documentary, but real people inspired it.
In 1979 Santa Barbara, California, a middle-aged single mother (Annette Benning) enlists a 24 year old, punk rock loving, feminist (Greta Gerwig) and the 17 year old girl next door (Elle Fanning) to help raise her 15 year old son (no clue). It’s a makeshift family drama with a soothing ambiance and provides differing perspectives on a rapidly changing country. While writer/director Mike Mills wrote Benning’s character very close to the memories of his own mom, the Gerwig and Fanning characters are fusions of the types of women that would come in and out of his life as a late bloomer teen on the west coast. Each of the actresses is great in her respective role and could have been Oscar nominated in another year. Even Gerwig, who I’ll admit tends to annoy me with all of her Gerwigness in other films, really nails this. Oh and before I forget, I’d be remiss not to mention Billy Crudup. He fits in perfectly in any style of movie and always seems to deliver no matter the size of the part. Crudup may as well be cinematic mayonnaise. Anyways, that’s 20th Century Women. It’s an appropriate title once you see the film. Grade: A-