PLOT- 20th Century Women is set in the stunning seaside town of Santa Barbara, California during the late 1970's. Dorothea (Annette Bening) is a single-mom, raising her fifteen-year-old son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). Dorothea worries that she is out of touch with Jamie, especially since she is an older generation, having had Jamie in her 40's. Jamie's father is out of the picture, and although Dorothea is confident that Jaime does not need to be raised with a father, she does think it's important to have other people looking out for him.
Dorothea asks Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Julie (Elle Fanning), to help guide Jaime. Free-spirited Abbie is renting a room in Dorothea's home. She is a photographer, who is in remission from cancer and estranged from her parents. Julie is Jaime's best friend, but while she would like to keep it platonic, he has a huge crush on her. Although she doesn't formally enlist him to help Jaime, Dorothea tries to facilitate a friendship between her kind, handy-man boarder, William (Billy Crudup) and her son.
LIKE- 20th Century Women is a beautifully constructed snap-shot of a few years in the lives of five characters, and how this particular time shaped them and shifted the course of their futures. I liked the narration style of 20th Century Women, with one character giving a voice-over narration of a different character. For example, Jaime talking about his mom's life before he was born. The narration shifts throughout the story with the characters eventually taking on their own narration. 20th Century Women is told through both flash-backs and glimpses of the future. It's not linear. Each of the five main characters, has their story told equally, and the magic in this story is in the ordinary. Nothing crazy or outlandish occurs in 20th Century Women, ordinary life occurs.
I was struck by the idea of life moving forward in these small pockets of time. For example, the character of Abbie is in transition after having cancer. In her teens/early twenties, her life revolved around school and cancer, but at this point in the story, she is dealing with the aftermath of the cancer and learning that it has affected her chances of conceiving a child. She is trying to figure out her next move with her art career, possible relationships, and being estranged from her parents. Abbie is living in this chunk of time in uncertainty. The same can be said for all of the characters, as they move through and towards different phases in their lives. It made me reflect on my own life, and I realized that I've never been able to anticipate more than a few years ahead, because something (death/divorce/et) seems to come and shift my course. When I say that 20th Century Women is about ordinary life, I'm also saying that the film makes ordinary life seem extraordinarily fascinating.
DISLIKE- I'm not sure the title fits the film. I see where it comes from, having the three lead female characters be strong women and from different generations, however, I think it's misleading. 20th Century Women is just as much about the lives of Jaime and William, as it is about the female characters.
RECOMMEND- Yes! 20th Century Women is beautifully written and highly affecting. Bening's character reminded me a little of my mom, which made the story feel more personal.