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20th Century Women (2016)

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The story of a teenage boy, his mother, and two other women who help raise him among the love and freedom of Southern California of 1979.

Director:

Mike Mills

Writer:

Mike Mills
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Popularity
2,781 ( 317)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 12 wins & 70 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Annette Bening ... Dorothea Fields
Elle Fanning ... Julie Hamlin
Greta Gerwig ... Abbie Porter
Billy Crudup ... William
Lucas Jade Zumann ... Jamie Fields
Alison Elliott ... Julie's Mother
Thea Gill ... Gail Porter
Vitaly Andrew LeBeau ... Young Jamie Fields (as Vitaly A. Lebeau)
Olivia Hone Olivia Hone ... Julie's Sister
Waleed Zuaiter ... Charlie
Curran Walters ... Matt
Darrell Britt-Gibson ... Julian
Alia Shawkat ... Trish
Nathalie Love ... Cindy
Cameron Protzman ... Teen in Therapy
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Storyline

Love, life, and the struggles of a mother bringing up a son in the the late 70's. The ignorance of a free spirit against the needs of a young man trying to find his true character and beliefs. Living in a bohemian household shared with 3 like minded spirited people to help pay the rent, his mother tries to establish bonds that he cannot deal with. She cannot deal with his inability to talk, and enlists the help of other females in his life to share the burden of his upbringing. Slowly life unravels for them all without understanding how. In spite of their perceived struggles, they all go on to live defined lives without any serious consequences. Written by Peter Cox

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexual material, language, some nudity and brief drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

A24 Films | Official Facebook | See more »

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

20 January 2017 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Twentieth Century Women See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$7,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$111,200, 1 January 2017

Gross USA:

$5,664,764

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$7,214,806
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color | Black and White (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

2.00 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film is semi-autobiographical, according to Michael Mills. The main cast members are based on one or multiple influences upon Mills from his childhood. Annette Bening's character in particular is based partly on his mother, but with the emphasis on Bening's particular spin on her character. See more »

Goofs

When Julie and Jamie take their road trip, they ask a man at the liquor store to buy them wine coolers. While packaged fruit flavored alcohol beverages were around for a while, they were not called wine coolers until "California Coolers" were released in 1981. See more »

Quotes

Dorothea: Men always feel that they have to fix things for women, but they're not doing anything. Some things just can't be fixed. Just be there, somehow that's hard for all of you.
See more »


Soundtracks

Fairytale in the Supermarket
Written and Performed by The Raincoats
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User Reviews

 
Life in fast motion
14 January 2017 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

20th Century Women isn't about giving us some epic look at a group of friends or a family, but it is about the passage of time with people who are warm and caring and in a genuine way. Mike Mills isn't a saccharine filmmaker, but he also doesn't shy away from sentiment - I always have to point out this is separate from sentimentality - and the feeling that I came away with from the comedy 20th Century Women is this warmth from all of the characters, and this feeling that I know these people, whether I did or didn't (and I actually did in the sense that, at times, the mother and son were me and my mom for a short period of my teenage years, so there's an authenticity just there to me).

There's so much empathy for everyone here that it adds to the authenticity of the emotions, even for Greta Gerwig's Abbie who is, in essence, another 'Greta Gerwig' character like I've seen, or think I've seen, in other movies (her quirky wisdom seems akin to last year's Mistress America at least). While she is my least favorite person in this movie, she's given a history and many moments, surrounding one of those terrible things that happens to people and there's not much to be done about it, or could've, it's out of the hands of anything *to* be done. There's so much work done on the characters here by Mills, getting us to like them despite all of their flaws or those moments where they don't act with logic or sense, that it doesn't matter that there isn't too much of a story. This is the story of these characters in a short span of time while also, as if looking on from some other, ethereal plane, about what this time meant in the context of what came before 1979, and what was to come.

Among the actors here, Lucas Jade Zumann is the breakout star as the 15 year old Jamie, but I was so taken with Benning and Fanning as the 50-ish, "she was in the depression" as she's described mother and the 2 years older than Jamie but that matters so much pleutonic friend respectively. I wonder if the film would've worked with any other actors in the roles, but really I can't imagine anyone else. Every time Bening's on screen she gives Dorothea this feeling of 'well... I guess this is happening now, what do I do about it, I'm not sure', and while she can get angry or concerned she's never one to go too over the top - this is the anti-Fences in that regard of being about a kid scarred by a parent - she does care about what happens to her son, with the "inciting incident" in screen writing terms being him almost dying from doing one of those dumb-s*** things teenagers do on a dare. It's a unique and subtle performance, filled with a sense of... questioning, uncertainty, which is harder to pull off than it looks.

Fanning, meanwhile, is also having to underplay, which is good to see. This is an impressive year for her between this, Live by Night (which she was the best part of) and the Neon Demon, and she's different in all of them. I want to say I like the work she does here the most even as (or because) it's the least likable one among the bunch (and keep in mind she's a born-again Christian in the South in LbN). Mills's writing provides Fanning a great deal to make Julie come alive, but I found her not saying things, the way she shows Jamie how to hold a cigarette, when she is saying little, and then when she is backed into doing something that she should want to do but doesn't go for - going past being 'just friends' with Jamie in the last third - how she responds is devastating. It's like, 'no, don't act this way', as opposed to simply looking at her as a "B"-word, which is how a hackier writer could've gone with it.

Oh, and I must reiterate this is a comedy, and it's funny as hell. There's certainly some dramatic stretches, but Mills mines a lot of humor out of generational splits - Bening's face as she hears early Black Flag, and then trying to "move" to it with Billy Crudup, is one of the funniest things this year - and it's a tricky balance that Mills finds between making the feminism (yes, actual literature and quotes spoken in voice-over from essays) serious AND humorous. We don't doubt that the feminism of the characters is pure, but there's also that question that's posed: how much is really appropriate, or can be legitimately understood, by 15 year old who barely knows who he is in this world?

And on top of this Mills is having fun and some daring as a filmmaker, using psychedelic colors to show cars driving at times, and going not for the slow-motion but fast-motion speed, but not for comedy - the aesthetic point matches up with what the movie's about: life moves too fast, and we have to try and keep up with it best as we can and grow with things and become better people as everything moves too quickly. If it's ultimately too episodic to be anything really great or up to be there with the very best this year, I'd still tell anyone who likes smart character independent(ish) movies centered on teenagers and adults to see it immediately; it has a good place alongside The Squid and the Whale and, to a less taboo extent, Diary of a Teenage Girl.


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