★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
"Look, wondering if you're happy, it's a great shortcut to being depressed." That's a hilarious quote from Annette Bening in 20th Century Women, the best film of the year. Set in 1979 Santa Barbara, California, Bening plays Dorothea Fields, a free-spirited single mother struggling to raise her 15-year-old son, Jamie (played by Lucas Jade Zumann). Her husband hasn't seen Jamie in 5 years. Dorothea is also currently renting out a room in her house to Abbie Porter (played by Greta Gerwig), a 24-year-old photographer & cervical cancer survivor. Hoping to connect more with Jamie & his view of the world, Dorothea recruits Abbie & Julie Hamlin (played by Elle Fanning), a 17-year-old friend of Jamie's, to help Jamie find himself & become a good man. They agree to help him, as Jamie really connects with the two of them. Also helping out is William (played by Billy Crudup), a pottery artist who is repairing Dorothea's house. Together, they try to help Jamie become a good man in a time where Jimmy Carter told us of a "Crisis of Confidence", where there were crises of energy & oil, & where women demanded equal rights.
The cast is spectacular: Annette Bening gives her greatest performance in her illustrious career; Elle Fanning gives an absolutely outstanding performance; Greta Gerwig's performance is Oscar-worthy; Billy Crudup gives his best performance yet; & Lucas Jade Zumann gives one of the best breakout performances ever; it's an absolute shame none of them were nominated for Oscars. Mike Mills's direction & screenplay are both amazing, solidifying Mills's place as one of the great American directors of the 21st century, after his previous masterpieces: 2005's Thumbsucker; & 2011's Beginners. The cinematography by Sean Porter is beautiful, filled with amazing shots overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean. The editing by Leslie Jones is excellent. The costume design by Jennifer Johnson is amazing. The production design by Chris Jones is beautiful. The film score by Roger Neill is absolutely astounding. And the soundtrack is one of the 3 best film soundtracks ever, filled with amazing punk music from the late 1970's. This is the best film I've ever seen. It's hilarious, it's heartwarming, & overall, it's an absolutely beautiful ode to the women who helped us become who we are today.