Plot: What’s it about?
Set in California in 1979, 20th Century Women follows a group of characters and their encounters with love and freedom during this era. Annette Bening stars as Dorothea Fields, a single mother trying to raise her son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). To assist Dorothea with raising Jamie, two women are enlisted. Abbie (Greta Gerwig) rents out a room in their house, while Julie (Elle Fanning) is a teen who lives in the neighborhood. We follow their daily routines and bonding as we get to know them over the course of the film. Expect many long, drawn out dialogue scenes of characters talking about intercourse and drug use, among other things. Billy Crudup shows up as well as a handyman, William.
I had no expectations going into Women and took nothing away from it. Maybe there’s an audience for this sort of thing, but I couldn’t take much more of it. It’s hard to follow these characters throughout an entire film when I cared nothing about them. I can’t really fault the cast so much as the material here. The film is simply too slow moving and free spirited in its storytelling. I realize it’s giving us a look into these character’s lives, but that doesn’t mean it translates into a satisfying film. I wanted to enjoy this film, but it left me cold and unmoved. I do enjoy seeing films of this era and how they recreate the clothing and music and general atmosphere, but the story and characters need to be compelling.
I won’t say there weren’t small moments of intrigue in the film, such as when Dorothea finds out of certain discussions Abbie is having with her son. Still, those little moments aren’t enough to redeem the overall film. It’s almost a case of too little, too late as it didn’t make me care enough. What we’re left with is capable actors in a lackluster film.
Video: How’s it look?
With a 2.40:1 AVC encoded image, the transfer satisfies. It might not be an exceptionally flashy film, but it’s given solid treatment here. Colors aren’t especially bright or bold, but I can’t blame that on the transfer as it’s just the way the film was shot. Bening is showing her age and the wrinkles on her face come through in the HD format. We get some nice scenery throughout the film, and background shots are always nicely detailed. All things told, the transfer serves the film accurately.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD track was pretty much as expected. It’s a talky film, and the track delivered what was expected. The score and dialogue were all handled with care, but this is a more restrained track. Still, it serves the film as it should.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director Mike Mills is certainly passionate about this project and it shows in his engaging and informative commentary. Information about the shoot, the time period (late 70’s) as well as the diverse cast is all covered here.
- Making 20th Century Women – A little more than the “typical” EPK, this does manage to cover all of the bases but still has interviews with the cast and crew as well as some behind the scenes footage from the film.
- 20th Century Cast – If you’d listened to the audio commentary, this is rather redundant, but this shows some of how Mills wrote the characters for the film and who he’d envisioned in their respective roles.
The Bottom Line
20th Century Women has moments that are intriguing, but the whole felt too sluggish and left me unchanged. I was ready for it to end and didn’t want to spend any more time with these characters. Certain audiences might get more out of this than me, but it did little for me.