Set in the Seventies, this is the story of Dorothea who gives birth to a son, Jamie, at age 40. Faced with raising him alone, she enlists the aid of her two boarders, a bohemian craftsman who is helping restore her old house; and Abbie, a young photographer trying to find her voice while battling health problems. Also in the mix is Julie, Jamie’s best friend. All try their best to help him through his formative years while facing challenges of their own.
2016, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 58 mins
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.00:1 Aspect Ratio
Starring: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig
Directed by Mike MillsRating
There is no plot here in the traditional sense. The story has no real beginning, middle, or end. It just happens. I thought as I watched that it might have been better presented as a novel rather than a feature film. The viewer is best off focusing on the superb performances turned in by all principal actors. Annette Benning is always a treat to watch. Her mellow character provides a perfect counterpoint to the neurotic personalities around her. Billy Crudup is almost unrecognizable as William the carpenter.
I enjoyed his carefree approach very much. Greta Gerwig as Abbie was not an actress I’d seen before but her credits are quite extensive. She brought a very experienced hand to the part. Elle Fanning and Lucas Jade Zumann as the teens reminded me a lot of my own childhood, though I grew up in the Eighties. That period of self-discovery is something we all experience and 20th Century Women provides good insight into that subject.
I just didn’t find myself very entertained by this movie. While all the elements are there to tell a good story, it never happens. We simply watch characters interact and experience their lives from different perspectives. There are no challenges for them to overcome except those they create for themselves. And there are no villains or heroes either. If you enjoy a good character study, this film certainly is that. For me though, it was a bit of a snore.
The vintage look of the Seventies is beautifully portrayed with warm hues, high contrast, and sharp detail. My only complaint is that there is occasional edge enhancement. It’s completely unnecessary and only serves to mar an otherwise reference-quality transfer.
Audio is clean and competent with proper focus on clear and well-balanced dialog. Ambient effects are used a little too sparingly and more music would have been welcome.
Bonus features include a making-of featurette, audio commentary by writer/director Mike Mills, and info about the cast.