Set in the "everybody smokes" 70s, the film revolves around single mother Dorothea (Bening) as she raises and tries to *understand* her angsty teenage son Jamie (who she had when she was 40), played impressively by newcomer Zumann. Dorothea decides to enlist boarding roommate Abbie (Gerwig, in hip punk-rocker mode), and Jamie's friend and crush Julie (Fanning) to help teach Jamie "how to be a good man" ...whatever that means.
Leaning on the musical influences of Black Flag and Buzzcocks rather than Zeppelin or The Stones, the sharp script here is full of brash yet substantial dialogue, exploring the complicated world, sociopolitical shifts, identity, and most of all--womanhood. The richly developed characters are all greatly performed. Annette Bening shines at the center, feeling so human and organic--her facial expressions do wonders. Greta Gerwig often sneaks in to steal the show (any movie with a scene of her dancing is a winner in my book). Her character leads a hilarious dinner table scene where she attempts to break the 'hush hush' stigma of periods by getting everyone at the table to confidently say "MENSTRUATION."
The film's drifting pace makes it feel a bit longer than it actually is, but it's sort of fitting with the spirit and mood and deeply-detailed zeitgeist. 20th Century Women is a funny and melancholy slice of life at a significant time. It's about the things people do and the places they end up. I know that seems so broad, but it's also so specific. Oh, and it's about freedom ...whatever that means.
( 8/10 )
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