Saturday, February 11, 2017

20th Century Women - 1 nomination

Original Screenplay - Mike Mills

20th Century Women tells the semi-autobiographic story of Mike Mills himself, having been raised in a home with a single mother and a small cast of smart, original, funny folks.  Young Jamie also has a best friend with whom he is in love who sneaks into his home and his bed after she experiences sex, drugs, and rock and roll with faster "bad boys" to whom she is attracted.  The film is set against the backdrop of the very end of the 1970's, a time of free love and punk and the women's movement all crashing together in a cacophony of madness.  At the center of the story are Jamie and his mother Barbara (Annette Bening).  Her parenting style is one in which she believes in allowing a mostly free reign for her son to explore the world and grow, and one in which she keeps her life and her feelings and her experiences very close to the vest.  She is at once free and stifled.

This is Annette Bening's likely greatest performance of her career.  Her omission from the Lead Actress category is a travesty.  There was space for her in the category (I'm looking at YOU Natalie Portman), and no one has ever seen her this good.  There are scenes in this film in which she expresses four different emotions with her face without ever saying a word.  The part was meant for her.  I'm calling you out, Academy.  This was a big missed opportunity.  

Now that I'm off that soapbox, I highly encourage seeing this film with its complex characters, its engaging conversations, and its remarkable ability for Mike Mills to both pay homage to his mother, and do his best to work out the journey of a woman who was clearly a very private person.  You'll remember Mike Mills' prior film Beginners about his father, for which Christopher Plummer won his first Oscar.  If these two movies are any indication of how well Mills draws on his personal experiences, let's hope he has a large family of characters from which he can draw his future projects.

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