Directed: Mike Mills
Starring: Annette Benning, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig
My Rating: 7 out of 10
I debated whether I was the right man to write a review about this film, a film about three women who explore love, freedom and sexuality in the 70’s, on the one hand you see I’m not a woman doing any of that and on the other hand I like women, i’ve been with some and I like the word sexuality. So throwing caution to the wind and expecting to make a hash of it regardless off I popped to my film den and off to the rather wonderful setting of California in the 70’s for this movie.
Now whether I can demonstrate a mind capable enough of intelligent debate on feminism is questionable but what cant be argued is how well delivered this film is. Mike Mills creates a sublime window into the period, it feels as right as my favourite movie “Almost Famous” did and thats high praise indeed, but the music and the feel of the movie did remind me of watching that film, it was clever, filled with good humour and had a superb choice of music throughout including Black Flag and Talking Heads which just made it such a great film to devour. Would this really stack up in the same way Almost did when I watched that for the first time so many moons ago? Well, no, unfortunately as nice as this film was to watch I also don’t think it will be one that stays with me too long. But it does have Billy “Russell Hammond” Crudup in it, but we’ll come to him later.
Billy is joined in the cast by three strong female parts. Annette Benning plays the wonderful Dorothea, head of the household she runs a boarding house along with her son Jamie who she is struggling to relate to as he grows from being a boy to a man. Trying to understand his choices, his music, his life it’s a great performance as she captures a shining inner strength from this independent woman. Alongside her is Abbie who lives at the boarding house, Greta Gerwig captivating the screen when on it, this character had plenty to offer, she is pained and finding it difficult to find love but with plenty of lust for life and wants to live how she wants to. Further to that is Julie (Elle Fanning) who plays friend of Jamie, another strong female character who Jamie is in love with, Julie tries to show him how to be cool and Elle’s delivery is fantastic, its quite held back but a classic scene where she shows him how to walk with a cigaratte is one of the most memorable.
All these strong female characters centre perfectly around the young Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) who is trying to find himself as he grows up, thinking more about his sexuality and the sexuality of girls around him, something most teenage boys come to face. And last but not least in the boarding house is carpenter William (Billy Crudup) who will always be Russell from Stillwater for me no matter what he does, and in turn will always be cool in whatever he does, but again this is a great character. The cast really is fantastic and carries this film to a great level throughout, each offers a great sense of reality and you really feel the interactions between all are genuine, neither character feels underdeveloped in any way which leads to the poignant end where each character narrates their separate lives after leaving the boarding house. I thought this was a particularly brilliant way to round off these separate characters.
I love movies that land the balance between drama and comedy and this is one of those movies, it has a great wit throughout that carries through from pretty much every character. I also think it’s the humour aspect that gives the characters so much warmth and vibrancy. But perhaps my biggest concern with this movie is that in my head as much as I enjoyed it I don’t think it’s going to be particularly memorable, other than for the cast itself, the story is OK and its carried out by some great acting but I think thats where it ends. I probably wont be seeking this out for a rewatch in 10 years time but what I can do wholeheartedly is recommend you to watch it now. It’s a film about real issues and real people and just like real people they can be entertaining but also have the capacity to be slightly dull in moments. But there is enough entertainment to outweigh the slower parts, enough humour to make you laugh and enough great acting to at least be worth one watch!