January 26th, 2017 — 11:21pm
20th Century Women-rm
This movie is set in the 1970s and examines the relationship between a single divorced mother and her only child, a 15-year-old son. It takes place in Santa Barbara, a coastal town North of Los Angeles. While we were raising teenagers on the East Coast during these years, there was little that we could relate to other than perhaps the music of Talking Heads playing in the background and the fact that parents can never fully understand their teenage children. However, it is the latter point that becomes the essence of this movie.
Annette Bening plays Dorothea, the mother in a role which she has already been nominated for a Golden Globe Award. She has decided that she can never teach a son what he needs to know about women and life so she asks Julie (Elle Fanning), a slightly older teenage girl who is her son’s friend and Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a few years older young woman who boards in their house to develop a dialogue with Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) and teach him what she was unable to do. There is also William (Billy Crudup) another boarder in the house who typifies a 1970s young man in his 30s. Jamie for the most part seems to be doing fine but it is mom who is having trouble negotiating her stage of life. Credit goes to Director Writer Michael Mills for capturing the atmosphere of this period piece with flashes of old cars, Jimmy Carter, uninhabited coastal views, 1970’s music, chain smoking of cigarettes, and discussion about the female orgasm.
Most viewers of this movie should find some meaningful identification whether it jogs memories of the 1970s or the universal dilemmas of negotiating certain stages of life. We are not sure it is worth sitting through the entire film (2016)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama
June 23rd, 2013 — 6:26am
Francis Ha – rm If you are a couple of generations out of sync with Francis Ha you may find it difficult to relate to this 27 year old woman (Greta Gerwig) who is trying to establish her life in New York City as a dancer, actually as an apprentice dancer who in fact doesn’t even have her own apartment. We first meet her with her best buddy girl friend Sophie (Mickey Summer) who isn’t quite as immature as Francis (which isn’t saying much) and is able to move her life along. By the way, another one of her friends is played by Grace Gummer who is a dead ringer for Meryl Streep and happens to be her daughter. We found ourselves feeling sorry for the likeable Francis much as we felt when we caught some episodes of the popular television program Girls with Lena Dunhan as she stumbles through the singles scene in good old New York. It may still be true “that if you can make it there you can make it anywhere”. However, as these characters demonstrate, it may be much more difficult for young women to kick start their lives in today’s single scene in New York and elsewhere. In past generations we recall 20 and 30 something women usually had jobs and were on their way to careers, especially if they were college graduates and most had serious relationships. This doesn’t seem to be the case today in this story or in real life. Writer/ Director Noah Baumback (who wrote and directed The Squid and the Whale and Greenberg) teamed up with lead actress Greta Gerwig who also starred in the latter film and are romantically linked. Their dialogue captures the essence of their characters, ie “ We are like a lesbian couple that doesn’t have sex anymore.” The choice to make this film in black and white allows the audience to focus on the essence of these characters and perhaps also of New York City which doesn’t need color to show it’s stark reality. It should be no surprise that the movie suggests that everything is going to be all right although it doesn’t really show us why and how that should happen. Perhaps their next film will fill in the colors. (2013)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama
September 6th, 2010 — 8:44am
Greenberg – rm – Screenwriter and Director Noah Baumbach (who gave us The Squid and the Whale) presents us with Roger Greenberg who is comfortably inhabited by Ben Stiller. This single guy in his forties, now a New Yorker, working as a carpenter, recently in a mental hospital, returns to Los Angeles to housesit for his brother who is taking his family on vacation in Viet Nam. He looks up some old friends who were members of his band back then and are at various places now in their lives. His reminiscence with them and his encounters with some younger generation guys and gals seem to be trying to tell a story of the difficulties that one goes through in trying to negotiate to a successful stable life and relationship. The problem is that there is very little back-story with Roger and it is near impossible to understand or get much of a feel why he is having so much trouble. We are left with a self centered, obsessive guy whom you imagine is suffering on some level. The story doesn’t really go any place and we are really not very enlightened about the characters. Greta Gerwig plays the personal assistant of his brother who also ran the household where Roger is staying and with whom he makes some tentative attempts to have a relationship. Her performance stands out as she creates a very sensitive, likable but sad young woman who desperately wants to be loved and have a relationship but doesn’t quite know how to do it. It is unclear if the title of the movie implies something Jewish, perhaps some stereotype of Jewish angst? The Stiller character mentions that that his father was Jewish but not his mother but we are not sure what that was supposed to mean. Perhaps in the future when Baumbach gives us characters who have figured out their lives, we will look back and realize this was an earlier phase of his work when things were more confused. (2010)
Comment » | 2 Stars, Comedy, Drama