Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) lives with his mother Dorothea (Annette Bening) who raised him all her own. They share their home with photographer Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and handyman William (Billy Crudup) and as often as Jamie’s best friend, the slightly older Julie (Elle Fanning), stays over, you could say she lives there as well. As Jamie tries to navigate puberty, his mother tries to make sure he becomes a good man, while Jamie is more interested in convincing Julie to have sex with him.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Beginners and unfortunately, 20th Century Women didn’t really blow me away either. The cast was good but as so often, the film focuses on the wrong guy. With emphasis on the guy part.
Why would you make a film with three pretty awesome and definitely unusual female characters, call it 20th Century Women and then have it revolve around one teenage boy and a rather bland one at that? That’s just built-in disappointment.
All these great characters are just set up to help Jamie grow. To teach him lessons. To make sure that he’ll be a good guy. Yeah, they each get a sideplot, but that’s not what the film is about. And I just didn’t care for Jamie all that much. He was just bland. Yeah, you’re nice, kid, but now step aside and let me see the awesome women you keep getting in the way of.
Maybe I would have felt differently about it if they had made Jamie a girl. In fact, I’m pretty sure I would have liked the story much more that way, to examine three different generations of women, how they support each other and help each other figure life out. Now that would be a film that would do the title 20th Century Women Justice.
But that’s not what we got. It certainly also didn’t help the film that I saw it in an airplane and they just chopped an entire scene without any care at all which was pretty jarring. But there were things to like as well and at the very least, there wasn’t a second I found boring, despite my issues with the film.
Summarizing: Could be better. Could be much worse.