Review: ’20th Century Women’ Captivates With Strong Performances That Supplement Steady Character Exploration
“20th Century Women” is driven by stellar performances accompanied by a sometimes sluggish plot.
Set in the late 1970s, “20th Century Women” explores the lives of three women on a journey to find themselves. Of varying ages and maturity, these women find common ground based on experience and lack thereof as they grow older in southern California.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Plot, etc.) – 4
“20th Century Women” uses a deconstructive method of differentiation driven by character development. Every character has their own individuality but they all share a common discerning element making them united. That individuality is what brings intrigue to the roles but their flaws are what build the foundation of the film.
With that said, it’s easy to determine that performances are a highlight of this film. This may be one of the most charismatic roles that I’ve seen Annette Bening take on. I was reminded of her role in “American Beauty” but on the opposite end of the spectrum. Her character seems to give more love than she receives and it’s both a tragedy and an introspective look at a unique individual.
While Annette Bening clearly steals the show, that’s not to diminish the presence of other cast members. Greta Gerwig’s role and performance are just as significant. She definitely falls into the supporting role as Bening is more of the culmination of the characters’ resolve, but out of the supporting cast, Gerwig definitely shines. Billy Crudup and Elle Fanning also show great depth but their characters are not as dynamic making them less integral to driving the film forward. Regardless of their impact, it’s hard not to enjoy Billy Crudup’s onscreen presence.
With so many characters, subplots, and themes, “20th Century Women” establishes itself as a diverse character study. The characters are the strong backbone of the film but exploring them individually hurts the film’s fluidity at times. It captures the essence of life in an abnormally distraught way through unconventional characters that flourish through strong performances.
Entertainment Value – 3
“20th Century Women” is more so a film for cinephiles rather than general audiences. It’s both honest and authentic, but lacking when it comes to overall engagement. With a piecemeal approach at character backstory, the continuity of the film may feel displaced for those not heavily invested in the characters.
For those that are influenced and invested in performances this could be an enriching experience. But the scattered combination of social agenda, historical relevance, and a non-conformist lifestyle, may establish a rift when it comes to connecting with the film. This is where some may consider the movie to feel sluggish rather than insightful.
Re-Watchability – 2.5
For the select group that can watch a film for a singular element, “20th Century Women” can be relived based on the strong performances. A lot of the film is dialogue driven and exploring multiple characters to reach a conclusion can be exhausting for some. While I felt fulfilled after watching this film, I don’t think I could reestablish that fulfilling experience by watching the movie again.
There aren’t many extras on the Blu-ray itself. Standard features such as commentary and a making of are included on the disc but the supplemental value is a bit light. While the extras aren’t plentiful, I was engaged in the making of portion and parts of the commentary gave added value to better understanding the characters.
“20th Century Women” is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.
- Entertainment Value
"20th Century Women" is a socially significant, liberating experience filled with outstanding performances with the highlight being Annette Bening. Structurally the film excels but for general audiences and more entertainment-driven moviegoers, the pace of character exploration may feel sluggish.
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