For Reel


20th Century Women (2016)
February 26, 2017, 5:10 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mike Mills
2 Stars
20th-century-women Like Beginners, Mike Mills’ last personal film littered with autobiographical elements, 20th Century Women feels both too sweet and and too fetishized to pack anything resembling an emotional wallop. Mills loves the way that objects, political touchstones, and works of art can inform the way one exists within their world. He also makes the mistake of stopping his characterizations there. Greta Gerwig’s Abbie points out that her hair is inspired by The Man Who Fell to Earth, Annette Bening’s Dorothea has a pack of Salems on hand in every scene, and key feminist texts like Our Bodies, Ourselves exist both within the narrative and create obvious, shallow narrative connections. Although defining characters through objects is undoubtedly a tried screenwriting technique, Mills is overly cutesy about it—the characters are developed partly through voice-over, and partly through the things that they like. It is such a limiting, pandering, and reductive worldview that the characters feel suffocated within the film. They are extensions of Mills’ own obsessions, not people in themselves. If Mills might have capably created an observational, collective memory of what a certain time in history felt like, his attempt to make a human drama is an unqualified failure.

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Beginners (2010)
May 27, 2011, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mike Mills

It’s depressing to see Ewan McGregor, now over forty, playing a role that seems to have been conceived for someone half of his age. A character birthed solely out of a series of vaguely connected idiosyncrasies, his mindset would have been much less unsettling within the context of twenty-something post-grads. This is one of those films in which the lead undertakes an artistic endeavor entitled “The History of Sadness” without a smidgen of irony. Though these films – which seem to exist almost exclusively to the American independent scene – can sometimes achieve a certain charm through their sense of whimsy, the gimmickry of Beginners is grating and ill-conceived. All of that being said, however, Christopher Plummer gives a sympathetic, earnest performance in an otherwise suffocatingly precious film.