The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

(USA 1974)

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“The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare.”

— Narrator

 

“Look what your brother did to the door! Ain’t he got no pride in his home?”

— Old Man

I didn’t expect much when I sat down for the low budget slasher classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a movie that somehow escaped me all these years. I’ve got to admit, it’s not bad.

The premise is simple: five friends in their 20s, three guys and two girls, are driving a van on a road trip through rural Texas in the summer. The purpose of the trip is to check on a few dearly departed relatives of Sally (Marilyn Burns) and her disabled brother, Franklin (Paul Alan Partain), after a gruesome grave robbery in the town where they grew up. It’s very Scooby Doo.

They pick up a crazy hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) outside a slaughterhouse who grosses them all out talking about killing cattle with a sledgehammer. He passes around a few photos of some he finished off himself. He’s dirty, scabby, and jittery. He snaps a photo no one asked him to, then has the nerve to charge them two bucks for it. He invites them over for dinner (head cheese) with his family before he cuts his hand with a pocketknife. Freaked, they pull over and throw his nasty ass out.

That’s not the worst of it — it’s just the beginning. Working from a screenplay he wrote with Kim Henkel, director Tobe Hooper taps into something pretty fucked up here. Mixing hicks with chainsaws is unsettling enough, but “Leatherface” (Gunnar Hansen), the masked executioner behind that sliding freezer door, is truly frightening. So is decomposing “grandfather” (John Dugan). When you stop to think about it, so is a gas station barbeque.

All the essential elements of horror are here: characters stranded in the middle of nowhere, empty houses, no phones or gas, bugs, bones, rotting corpses, chases in the dark, falling down, power tools as weapons, kidnapping, a faceless menace, and a bunch of blood.

Cinematographer Daniel Pearl creates some surprisingly artful shots, particularly on the highway, in a sunflower patch, and a scene with feathers. They look great. The artful moments, however, are far and few between. The pacing is strange: the first four victims are picked off in quick succession, leaving just Burns, who has nothing to do but run around and scream for nearly the entire second half. Even after all she goes through, no one needs that. Still, for all its flaws, I winced, I snickered, I looked away in disgust. But I saw the whole thing through to the end — no pun intended.

I hate to spoil the ending, but contrary to the movie poster…none of this is true.

With Allen Danziger, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Jim Siedow, John Larroquette

Production: Vortex

Distribution: Bryanston Pictures (USA), Astral Films (Canada), New Gold Entertainment (Italy), Succéfilm AB (Sweden), Jugendfilm-Verleih (West Germany), Bac Films (France), New Line Cinema (USA), René Chateau Productions (France), Filmways Australasian Distributors (Australia)

84 minutes
Rated R

(iTunes rental) B-

http://www.thetexaschainsawmassacre.net

Suspiria

(Italy 1977)

“We must get rid of that bitch of an American girl. Vanish! She must vanish! Make her disappear! Understand? Vanish! She must vanish. She must die! Die! Die!”

— Madame Blanc

Dario Argento’s cult classic Suspiria is a perplexing film, and not because it’s scary. It’s pretty ridiculous, tongue and cheekiness aside.

Cowritten by Argento with Daria Nicolodi from Thomas DeQuincey’s 1845 essay “Suspiria de Profundis,” the plot is prosaic: American ballet student Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) enrolls at “the most famous school of dance in Europe,” the fictitious Tanz Dance Academy in Freiburg, Germany. Suzy notices immediately that something about the place isn’t quite right — maybe it’s the two students who are murdered the night she arrives. It doesn’t take long for Suzy to discover that the school is a front for something far more nefarious. Except for a few good lines here and there, the writing is terrible. The acting is even worse. The two exceptions are Alida Valli as Miss Tanner and Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc, both of whom deliver fabulously campy performances as women of power at the school.

None of this matters, though, because this isn’t Suspiria’s raison d’être. No, Suspiria is a sensory masterpiece that places style way ahead of substance. In other words, it’s eye candy.

Argento expresses his vision through his imagery, and it’s unforgettably dazzling and unique. From the opening titles to the last scene, Argento shocks, thrills, and seduces with color, light, shadow, and surreal imagery. His sets are elegant and fake, and his blood is even faker. He lights the screen with bright reds and glowing blues (when it’s not all black from night), and he keeps the perspective distorted to create a trippy dissonance. Plus, he throws in a number of creepy psychological menaces, from maggots to a dog attack to a treacherous room-size wire dustbunny. Luciano Tovoli’s camera work perfectly articulates Argento’s vision.

This is what Suspiria is all about:

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The soundtrack by Goblin is a nice touch, and it goes far in creating the mood here.

For all its flaws — and there are many — Suspiria is a memorable film. We caught a digital restoration of the original print, which is five or six minutes longer. A zealous audience member engaged us in a discussion as we left the theater. He told us that Suspiria is the first of a trilogy known as “The Three Mothers,” and he enthusiastically recommended the second film, Inferno. I’ll see it someday, but it’s not a priority.

With Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosé, Barbara Magnolfi, Susanna Javicoli, Eva Axén, Rudolf Schündler, Udo Kier, Margherita Horowitz, Jacopo Mariani, Fulvio Mingozzi, Franca Scagnetti, Renato Scarpa, Serafina Scorceletti, Giuseppe Transocchi, Renata Zamengo

Production: Seda Spettacoli

Distribution: Produzioni Atlas Consorziate

98 minutes
Not rated (alternate version)

(ArcLight) C+

Foxy Brown

(USA 1974)

“That’s my sister, baby. And she’s a whole lot of woman.”

— Link

 

“Death is too easy for you, bitch. I want you to suffer.”

— Foxy

To use a term straight from Willie Hutch’s theme song, director/screenwriter Jack Hill’s Foxy Brown is superbad. It’s definitely not something to see for technical or artistic excellence, but it’s cool nonetheless. A sort of reworking of Coffey, it’s a sexy vigilante revenge tale that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Pam Grier is Foxy Brown, a bodacious woman on a mission to track down the goons who shot and killed her boyfriend (Terry Carter), a government agent who just had plastic surgery to change his identity, right outside her door. Obviously, this is the work of a Los Angeles drug ring.

Foxy quickly figures out who the rat is: her own brother, Link (Antonio Fargas). He identifies her boyfriend’s killers as affiliates of a “modeling agency.” The agency is run by fixers Miss Kathryn Wall (Kathryn Loder) and Steve Elias (Peter Brown). Their clients are crooked high profile men of the law like judges and politicians who trade favors for girls.

Posing as a prostitute, Foxy gets inside the operation and does some major damage. It gets her in serious hot water when she’s exposed, bringing her into the center of a lesbian bar brawl and then onto a coke ranch as a junky sex slave. Fortunately, she’s tough and resourceful. No one gets the best of Foxy.

Built on sex parties, chase scenes, shoot outs, and boobs, the plot is structured like a sitcom, and it’s about as complicated and predictable. Naturally, Foxy gets what she wants in the end. Except for the very cool opening titles, there are no effects to speak of. The acting is average at best. However, the action is surprisingly steady, leaving very few dull spots. Plus, there’s real sas here, mostly from Grier, that keeps the whole thing interesting.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call Foxy Brown a feminist work, but Foxy is a badass heroine with her heart — and her head — in the right place. It’s a thrill watching her take control, especially in heels and those fabulous frocks. I wouldn’t want to piss her off.

With Harry Holcombe, Sid Haig, Juanita Brown, Sally Ann Stroud, Bob Minor, Tony Giorgio, Fred Lerner, Judy Cassmore, H.B. Haggerty, Boyd ‘Red’ Morgan, Jack Bernardi, Brenda Venus, Kimberly Hyde, Jon Cedar, Ed Knight, Esther Sutherland, Mary Foran, Jeannie Epper, Stephanie Epper, Peaches Jones, Helen Boll, Conrad Bachmann, Russ Grieve, Rodney Grier, Roydon E. Clark, Don Gazzaniga, Jay Fletcher, Gary Wright, Fred Murphy, Edward Cross, Larry Kinley Jr.

Production: American International Pictures (AIP)

Distribution: American International Pictures (AIP) (USA), Sociedade Importadora de Filmes (SIF) (Portugal), Film AB Corona (Sweden), Cinema Mondo (Finland)

92 minutes
Rated R

(Impact) C+

Swept Away…by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August [Travolti da un insolito destino nell’azzurro mare d’agosto]

(Italy 1974)

“Oh, Madonna! This nightmare is finally over. God, do I want some coffee. Fresh, of course.”

— Raffaella Pavone Lanzetti

More than 40 years after the fact, Lina Wertmüller is still an audacious filmmaker. Not only does she incorporate sociopolitical commentary, satire, and crazy sex into her work, but her ’70s films are inherently interesting because they push buttons. She’s the first female nominated for an Oscar for Best Director, and there’s a reason for that: she’s a radical with more balls than just about anyone else working, even today.

Case in point: Swept Away…by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August [Travolti da un insolito destino nell’azzurro mare d’agosto] — or simply Swept Away for short — is not a standard comedy. The plot is simple: an insufferable rich bitch, Raffaella (Mariangela Melato), is vacationing in the Mediterranean with her millionare husband (Riccardo Salvino) and their friends on a yacht. Raffaella is thoughtless and demanding, and she relentlessly berates rugged deckhand Gennarino Carunchio (Giancarlo Giannini) because the coffee isn’t fresh, the fish doesn’t taste right, and the pasta isn’t al dente enough.

She insists that Gennarino take her swimming. The two end up stranded in the water, far from the yacht. They eventually spot land, which turns out to be a small uninhabited island. Gennarino, a fisher, has no trouble finding food or shelter. Raffaella isn’t used to doing things herself, and soon finds that she is dependent on Gennarino. He isn’t exactly gracious about his new upper hand. It isn’t long before their relationship takes a sexual turn.

Wertmüller, who wrote the screenplay as well as directed, plays on traditional notions of sex roles. By today’s standards, Swept Away is probably too violent to come off as funny. The many scenes where Gennarino slaps and physically pummels Raffaella are bad enough, but when he rapes her on the beach? It’s disturbing. How is that funny? That’s the point — at first, anyway.

Swept Away isn’t really about sex: it’s about power. Here, the power dynamic shifts once Raffaella and Gennarino are out of the “civilized” world and lost in the wild, where economics and social status no longer define one’s place. Like all of her early films, Wertmüller has a lot to say about class structure; here, she also has a lot to say about male/female relationships. She’s controversial, but her approach works really well. It helps that Melato and Giannini, who starred in earlier films together, have a believable chemistry — and they spend a bit of time here wearing very little.

Swept Away is not a typical film. I call it a comedy, but it doesn’t fit neatly into any category. It’s sharp, subversive, and still pretty potent.

With Isa Danieli, Aldo Puglisi, Anna Melita, Giuseppe Durini, Lucrezia De Domizio, Luis Suárez, Vittorio Fanfoni, Lorenzo Piani, Eros Pagni

Production: Medusa Distribuzione

Distribution: Medusa Distribuzione (Italy), Cinema 5 Distributing (USA)

116 minutes
Rated R

(iTunes rental) B+

http://www.linawertmuller.com/framegeo.htm

Killer of Sheep

(USA 1977)

“Man, I ain’t poor. Look, I give away things to the Salvation Army. You can’t give away nothing to Salvation Army if you poor.”

— Stan

Killer of Sheep has an unusually twisted history that kept it out of daylight — and the spotlight — until recently. His Master’s thesis when he was a film student at UCLA, director Charles Burnett shot it part time over a year’s worth of weekends on 16mm scraps salvaged from production houses. He used equipment borrowed from the university film department. He never intended it to be shown publicly, which is why he didn’t bother to secure licenses for all the music in it (https://mobile.nytimes.com/2007/03/25/movies/25kehr.html?referer=https://www.google.com/).

Relegated to obscurity because of copyright issues surrounding the music, Killer of Sheep was impossible to see for decades — not that that stopped the Library of Congress from adding it to the National Film Registry in just its second year of existence. A grant and a donation led to a restoration that finally placed it into the stream of commerce about ten years ago.

Burnett paints a fluid portrait of the American urban ghetto through the daily life of Stan (Henry G. Sanders), a poor black working class grunt at a slaughterhouse in Watts. His days, monotonous and uneventful, are loaded with small events like fixing the pipes under the kitchen sink, eating dinner at the table with his family, cashing a check at a liquor store, buying a used motor for a car, and getting a flat tire on a “trip to the country” only to find no spare in the truck.

While this is happening, different temptations like a job offer and a part in a crime are presented to Stan. His wife (Kaycee Moore), a weary beauty who waits for him with fresh makeup and a record on the turntable each evening, seems to be the reason he resists. Maybe it’s not her — maybe it’s because Stan simply doesn’t see himself as capable of doing any better.

Not a whole lot happens in Killer of Sheep, but that’s not the point. Like the Italian neorealist films it calls to mind, Burnett’s execution is beautifully simple: he uses non-professional actors (and children who aren’t acting at all), mundane settings and situations, and black and white film to depict the rhythm of poverty. His execution is also really haunting, as if we’re eavesdropping. It’s incredibly effective. For such a quiet and contained film, Burnett’s ultimate statement is pretty jarring.

As stated, the United States Library of Congress deemed Killer of Sheep “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1990 (https://www.loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/complete-national-film-registry-listing/).

With Jack Drummond, Angela Burnett, Charles Bracy,  Eugene Cherry, Delores Farley, Dorothy Stengel , Tobar Mayo, Chris Terrill, Lawrence Pierott, Russell Miles, Homer Jai, Johnny Smoke

Production: Charles Burnett

Distribution: Milestone Films

80 minutes
Not rated

(Gene Siskel Film Center) A-

http://www.killerofsheep.com

Disco Godfather [The Avenging Disco Godfather]

(USA 1979)

Dear God the Father! Some movies are so terrible, you love them for everything wrong with them—what’s bad is exactly what endears them. Other movies…well, they’re just terrible. It’s a thin line. Sadly, Disco Godfather falls into the latter category.

J. Robert Wagoner and Cliff Roquemore’s screenplay stars Rudy Ray Moore as Tucker Williams, an L.A. cop-turned-DJ at the trashy-ass Blueberry Hill Disco, which looks like a repurposed Denny’s. The plot involves Williams’s nephew, Bucky (Julius J. Carry III), who’s gotten hooked on “angel dust.”

One word: YAWN! What were they thinking? Disco Godfather is so boring, I’d rather watch reruns of 2 Broke Girls. The only thing that saves it from total failure is the wardrobe—Felice Hurtes, Jimmy Lynch, and Kimberly Sizemore deserve major kudos for finding the cool Goodwill stores. Fuck this bullshit: watch Dolemite and call it a day. They could have tried a little harder here.

With Carol Speed, Jimmy Lynch, Jerry Jones, Lady Reed, Hawthorne James, Frank Finn, Julius J. Carry III, Bishop Pat Patterson, Pucci Jhones, Howard Jackson, Yetta Collier, Pat Washington, Doc Watson, Leroy Daniels, Melvin Smith, Ronny Harris, Dolorise Parr, John Casino, Keith David

Production: Generation International

Distribution: Transvue Pictures (USA), Xenon Pictures

93 minutes
Rated R

(DVD purchase) D-

Love & Anarchy [Film d’amore e d’anarchia, ovvero ‘stamattina alle 10 in via dei Fiori nella nota casa di tolleranza…’]

(Italy/France 1973)

The premise of Lina Wertmüller’s Love & Anarchy [Film d’amore e d’anarchia, ovvero ‘stamattina alle 10 in via dei Fiori nella nota casa di tolleranza…’] has the ring of something from Federico Fellini or maybe Pedro Almodóvar (though Fellini makes a lot more sense because she actually worked as his assistant for a spell).

Freckly yokel farmer Tunin (Giancarlo Giannini) learns that his friend was murdered. Why? Because he was an anarchist who was plotting to assassinate “ll Duce” Benito Mussolini. What’s more, Mussolini’s fascist police killed him. To avenge his friend’s death, Tunin takes up his cause.

Tunin ends up at a brothel in Rome. He spends a night with Salomè (Mariangela Melato), who reveals that she’s a co-conspirator for her own reasons. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the coup is a harebrained idea.

Salomè takes Tunin to a rural spot just outside Rome with her and another prostitute, Tripolina (Lina Polito). Salomè distracts Spatoletti (Eros Pagni), the head of Mussolini’s police, while Tunin checks out the area; they then devise a plan to execute the mission.

Meanwhile, Tunin and Tripolina fall in love. Convinced that he isn’t going to make it past the assassination alive, he persuades Tripolina to spend the next two days with him.

The same radical spunk that Wertmüller exhibits in The Seduction of Mimi is just as prevalent in Love & Anarchy; this film is loaded with decadent, sexy hijinks. However, it also its share of some really tender moments—that surprised me. Love & Anarchy turns out devastatingly sad—I left the theater literally bummed out. For all its ridiculous sociopolitical and sexual shenanigans, it’s a far more powerful film.

With Pina Cei, Elena Fiore, Giuliana Calandra, Isa Bellini, Isa Danieli, Enrica Bonaccorti, Anna Bonaiuto, Anita Branzanti, Maria Sciacca, Anna Melato, Gea Linchi, Anna Stivala, Roberto Herlitzka

Production: Euro International Film, Labrador Films

Distribution: Peppercorn-Wormser, Kino Lorber

120 minutes
Not rated

(Gene Siskel Film Center) B

https://www.kinolorber.com/film/view/id/1306

Dolemite

(USA 1975)

Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore) is his name, and fuckin’ up mutha fuckas is his game!

He’s the baddest pimp around—well, around Los Angeles, anyway—and he looks every bit the part. Dolemite owns a nightclub and whorehouse but he’s doing time on a drug beef. Maybe it’s bogus, maybe not. Maybe some bad cops set him up, maybe it was archenemy Willie Green (D’Urville Martin), who took over the club and is running shit now. Either way, mother pimp Queen Bee (Lady Reed) and Dolemite’s army of ass-kickin’ kung fu hookers are none too happy about it.

To get out of the big house, Dolemite makes a deal with the po-po, Agent Blakeley (Jerry Jones), to, I think, help clean up his old hood. Dolemite uses this as an opportunity to exact revenge on Green and reclaim his, um, stature in the community.  Along the way, he kicks a lot of ass, takes on two crooked cokehead cops—Mitchell (John Kerry) and White—and gets laid. A lot. He even cuss raps at the end.

Dolemite is not a movie to see because it’s a work of art. On the contrary, it’s terrible. But that’s what makes it so much fun to watch—that’s why it’s a cult classic. Like a lot of things before the late ’80s, it’s not P.C. (i.e., politically correct)—as if that isn’t obvious from the movie poster. The directing by Martin, which probably explains why he has so little screen time, is sloppy. You can count the number of times boom mics pop in. The fight scenes are laughable—Dolemite knocks people out barely lifting a finger (or here,  leg) and sometimes without even touching them. Don’t even get me going on the martial arts stuff!

The plot is confusing and watered down. Jones wrote the screenplay with Moore, and the writing is just bad. I admit, I watched it drunk this time, but I’ve seen Dolemite before while sober. No difference. The events are scattered and at points seem random. The characters are colorful—shady Reverend Gibbs (West Gale), a possible parody of former Chicago leader Mayor Daley (Monte “Hy” Pike), the clearly trippin’ Hamburger Pimp (Vainus Rackstraw), and the many fox females—wander in and out, often without any reason.

Despite all that, Dolemite unquestionably has a charm of its own. Moore likes to rhyme, and he punctuates pretty much every sentence with “mutha FUCKA!” His crib is rent-to-own fabulous—check it out:

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The wardrobe looks like it was borrowed from the Salvation Army. The climax at the nightclub goes on longer than it should but is still a showstopper. The soundtrack is a trip. If nothing else—and there is nothing else—Dolemite is a good time.

With Brenda DeLong, Terri Mosley, Marilyn Shaw, Lynell Smith, Vera Howard, Joy Martin, Jana Bisbing, Brenda Banks, Pat Haywood, René Van Clief, Pat Jones, Lola Mayo, Charlene Soulter, Liz Sample, Karolynn Hill, Dino Washington, Johnny J. Brown, Cardella Di Milo

Production: Comedian International Enterprise Productions (C.I.E.)

Distribution: Dimension Pictures, Xenon Pictures

90 minutes
Rated R

(DVD) C-

http://xenonpictures.com/wp/dolemite/

http://www.shockingimages.com/dolemite/films/dolemite.php

The Seduction of Mimi [Mimì metallurgico ferito nell’onore]

(Italy 1972)

I never heard of Lina Wertmüller until a retrospective of her work showed at a theater near me. The Seduction of Mimi [Mimì metallurgico ferito nell’onore] is an excellent starting point because it’s a textbook example of her style and the themes that inspire her. Plus, it’s an entertaining movie.

Mimi (Giancarlo Giannini) is a laborer in Sicily. His trouble begins after he votes for the communist candidate in a local election—his employer has been pushing its employees to vote for the mafia candidate. The ballot is supposed to be secret, but Mimi learns that it isn’t when he’s fired. Fearing that things will get complicated, he leaves his wife, Rosalia (Agostina Belli), behind and skips town.

Mimi ends up in Turin, where he finds work on an illegal construction site. He witnesses an on-the-job fatality and proves to be a problem when he learns that the mafia bosses running the job plan to dump the body. To keep him quiet, they place him in a union job at a factory.

It isn’t long before Mimi meets the alluring Fiorella (Mariangela Melato) selling sweaters on the street. He’s hooked on her; in fact, he knocks her up and she gives birth to a son. This is where The Seduction of Mimi gets really fun. Mimi is promoted to a management position back in Sicily. Naturally, he brings Fiorella and the baby with him. He’s protective of his new family and paranoid that Rosalia will find out about it, so he leads a thorny double life that…let’s just say doesn’t end well.

The Seduction of Mimi is rough, moving along like an episode of The Benny Hill Show. It’s compelling nonetheless because it has a certain elegance. Wertmüller is known for mixing sex, class, and politics. It’s a tricky feat, but she manages to pull it off while keeping The Seduction of Mimi totally amusing even by today’s standards. The stuff with the mafia and the gay rumor that gets out because Mimi won’t have sex with Rosalia are both hilarious. The whole revenge subplot that involves getting Amalia (Elena Fiore) pregnant is brilliant on so many levels, and that scene at the end where all of Mimi’s children clamor for him calling him “Papa!” is perfect. Giannini with his bug-eyed Chaplinesque faces looks crazy throughout this film, nicely underscoring the insanity of his situation. I smiled a lot during this film.

With Turi Ferro, Luigi Diberti, Tuccio Musumeci, Ignazio Pappalardo, Gianfranco Barra, Livia Giampalmo

Production: Euro International Film

Distribution: New Line Cinema (USA), Kino Lorber

121 minutes
Rated R

(Gene Siskel Film Center) B

https://www.kinolorber.com/film/theseductionofmimi

20th Century Women

(USA 2016)

“We are at a turning point in our history.”

—President Jimmy Carter

I was a little kid in the Seventies, but I have many indelibly vivid memories of the decade: huge cars, gas lines, expensive meat, hijacked planes, Sanka and Sweet’N Low, smoking everywhere, hard rock, punk rock, disco, macrame, spider plants, the Bicentennial, Sky Lab, Victoriana (we had Mucha posters in our mustard-colored kitchen), that strange Holly Hobby aesthetic. It seems like it all changed immediately when Reagan took office in 1981.

20th Century Women captures a slice of American life on that unique, unremembered and largely disowned cusp. Set as a flashback to 1979 with voiceovers that repeatedly remind us that we’re looking backward, the film is a rather remarkable time capsule. The story is simple: Dorothea (Annette Bening) is my grandparents’ age (born in 1924). She had her only son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), late in life—i.e., over age 40. She’s been divorecd for a few years, which was fine until Jamie hit puberty. Now, she needs help understanding him. She enlists his two closest allies—Julie (Elle Fanning), whose pants he wants to get into, and Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a postpunk fuckup—to help her figure him out.

Loosely based on actual events from director and writer Mike Mills’s childhood, 20th Century Women is fun to watch. Growing up in a house of females myself, I relate to a lot of his experiences. I loved all the Talking Heads, too. Oh!—and Siouxsie and the Banshees! That said, this film borders on overbearing with its nostalgia. It could’ve been so much better—the material and the talent are both there, but Mills goes for easy returns that don’t pay off. The story falls flat. Perhaps a quote from Bening in an earlier film, the superior and far more interesting Running with Scissors, succinctly sums up my problem here: “It’s shit, Fern. It’s sentimental. It’s emotionally dishonest. It implodes into nothingness.”

I wasn’t bored, and I didn’t hate 20th Century Women. But I’m never going to see this movie again. Too bad, because the acting is great. It’s a misfire due to its execution. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Also starring Billy Crudup, Vitaly Andrew LeBeau, Curran Walters, Toni Christopher, Jimmy Carter (public domain footage)

Produced by Annapurna Pictures, Archer Gray, and Modern People

Distributed by A24

119 minutes
Rated R

(Landmark Century) C

http://20thcenturywomen-movie.com