CITY PRESS REVIEW: 20th Century Women

Annette Bening and Lucas Jade Zumman in 20th Century Women. (Ster-Kinekor)
Annette Bening and Lucas Jade Zumman in 20th Century Women. (Ster-Kinekor)

Johannesburg - Oh dear. I know I’m probably supposed to have adored this movie about three liberal women raising a teenage boy, but it just didn’t do it for me.

It follows single mum Dorothea (Annette Bening), who enlists the help of two young women to help mentor her teenage son Jamie, who she feels needs more support and guidance than she can offer. Semiautobiographical in nature, the story is told through Jamie’s eyes, and Dorothea’s character is apparently based on director Mike Mills’ mother. It’s been described as the picture of creating a male feminist, and sees Jamie influenced and educated by the strong female presences in his life.

Dorothea calls on 15-year-old Julie (Elle Fanning), who Jamie is in love with, and Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a feminist punk rocker and photographer for help. Although they are supposed to mentor Jamie, they sometimes do more harm than good, projecting some rather intense emotions onto the young boy.

This all plays out in 1979, a year that saw feminist thinking come to the fore, people find expression through angry punk music and America move into a new era.

Though the characters are unconventional, nuanced and well portrayed, 20th Century Women lacks pathos and moves at a snail’s pace.

Mills, to his credit, creates realistic scenarios with natural dialogue, but this also happens to make the movie, well, very boring.

There will definitely be audiences who will love this sweet and subtle drama, but I just couldn’t wait for the end of it.

Although I appreciated the inclusion of excerpts from radical feminist texts like Our Bodies, Ourselves and Sisterhood is Powerful, I didn’t think there were enough of them. This is definitely viewing for the patient and generous audience.