20th Century Women Are Guides Through a 1970s Adolescence
Ah, the uncertainty of being 14. Despite 20th Century Women’s title, the film is a coming-of-age story about a young man, Jamie (played by Lucas Jade Zumann). Lucas has three women to help him navigate through the summer of 1979: his mother played by Annette Bening, a young photographer in the punk scene played by Greta Gerwig, and a teenage neighbor played by Elle Fanning. Billy Crudup also stars as an adrift boarder renting the bungalow behind Bening’s house.
But 20th Century Women is also about the adolescence of a whole generation, as Jimmy Carter’s Crisis of Confidence speech implored Americans to believe once again in economic optimism (sound familiar?). And it highlights the rise of skateboarding counterculture, tempered by the wisdom of the three women. As Bening says, “Look, wondering if you’re happy—it’s a great shortcut to just being depressed.”
The trailer offers a taste of that Santa Barbara teenage summer: suburban skate parks, and VW Bugs with the windows rolled down, all set to the Talking Heads. With the star-studded cast, the nostalgia, and the late December release date, 20th Century Women, written and directed by Mike Mills (Beginners), likely will bring at least one of these women close to a 21st century Oscar nomination.
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