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Sunday, October 2, 2016

20th Century Women (2016)

Set in 1979 in the California coastal town of Santa Barbara, a single mother (Annette Bening) struggles to raise her 15 year old son (Lucas Jade Zumann). To help understand her son better she enlists the aid of two boarders: a punk rocker (Greta Gerwig) and a handyman (Billy Crudup) as well as her son's older best friend (Elle Fanning).  This autobiographical piece was written and directed by Mike Mills whose BEGINNERS guided Christopher Plummer to an Oscar and he may well accomplish the same thing with Bening here. Whereas BEGINNERS focused on his father's coming out late in life, in 20TH CENTURY WOMEN Mills focuses on his non-conformist mother who is more conventional than she thinks. It is not a film that is heavy on plot, rather it's a series of moments which when accumulated provide a rich coming of age story that is both humorous and poignant. I'm probably doing the film a disservice by making it sound heavy handed when it's anything but. Once again Bening proves what a marvelous actress she is. Her face is a road map of thoughts and emotions without going all actress-y on us. All she has to do is think it and we go, "a-ha!". Highly recommended. With Alison Elliott.

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