20th Century Women

Clever Swine

The film is exceptionally well written and on further reflection a millisecond later, may be actually perfect.
Reported on 16th of May, 2017

As with the worst film of last year, what is possibly the best is due to my urge to take a dump. You can read more about the dump in another article…

…and more about it now. Pre-dump, I had just seen I Refuse To Call It T2:Trainspotting, and just wanted to go home. But God called nature and put me on three-way, and there I was, writing this. It costs €15 in gas to get to Rennes in back, so I was weighing whether or not to leave and miss the rare instance that two English language films are playing adjacent.

Afterwards I took it as a sign (literally reading tea leaves!), and went upstairs to see 20th Century Women. I’d like to talk extensively about it, but as happens sometimes in very good films, all my notes are simply lines of dialog.

20th Century Women

5 March 2017 @ The Gaumont Rennes

$31.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

§  §  §


The film is exceptionally well written and on further reflection a millisecond later, it may be actually perfect. It has the quality of being consistent and surprising at every step. This might just be a case my own personal taste, what I have come to call the Three of Hearts rule. Any pretense of objectivity on my part went out the window when I saw of those nostalgic 1980s Santa Barbara streets.

But if you hate it, learn one thing: centrality of character in writing. This film captures each of the characters own internal, dense and discernable lives. There is a massive, massive danger in making a film about an adolescent boy being in love with a girl that’s his best friend. But Ms. Elle Fanning is her own damaged character, and owns her damage. When she confesses the time that ‘Tim Trammer came inside me’, the specificity removes the possibility that she exists a fulfillment for Mr. Lucas Jade Zumann.

Saw the trailer for Ghost in the Shell for the eighteenth time here. My french is now good enough that I understand the trailers, but the dialog mundane enough that it doesn’t give anything away.
The line that made me laugh out loud: ‘Elle est partout. Et nulle part.’ (‘She is everywhere. And nowhere’). The seriousness with which the actor hits the voiced alveolar trill at the end of ‘parrrrrrrrrr’ really sold the comedy. If only that film had been as funny.

It also encapsulates another rule I’ve been thinking about, what I will call the All Men Are Aristotle rule. Given that characters seem to represent less actual people than slivers of ourselves at different times (we’ll call that the Lesbian Porn Is Awesome rule, and never mention it again), there’s a lot to be said for thinking about what that character’s philosophy of life might be.

There’s also something to be said. That is, I would like to hear it. ‘You shouldn’t kiss someone unless you know what it means’, is something that the character believes, it doesn’t have to be true and it’s great to hear it said.

When we reached: ‘Whatever you think your life is going to be like just know it’s not going to be anything like that’, we can say something that’s more to my own take on this film that might not be yours.

I didn’t have the best time growing up, and certainly not the best rôle models. What I did have was movies, and while the characters of Mr. Raymond Chandler had to have a code to get by the censors of the time, it was their code that – gradually – taught me out of being a complete asshole. Well, taught me to see more ethical movies anyway. And be nice to doggies, so shut up.

On one hand, when I saw this flawed, believable and complete family that at least tried to love each other, I was a bit sad I didn’t get that. But it was simultaneous with the feeling that I did with the all the wonderful, and moral, art, stories and characters over the years. What’s great about listening to about ‘Rubber Ring’ now is the way it both chides us not to forget the songs that saved your life, and has become one of those songs.

So here’s to you, Life of Brian and Gallipoli and Three Days of the Condor and all the beautiful films of the revival houses of my youth, for teaching me about right and wrong when no one else would. If you want to know why I keep going back, and keep writing this, it’s not just the hatewatch, the camp potential, or even the occasional accidental joy. It’s the gratitude.

The Take

Speaking of which, great album cuts, including some early DEVO. This is a movie that would not use ‘Rubber Ring.’ Though that is also a great album cut.
Fine, I’ll give you one: ‘I just think that having your heart broken is a tremendous way to learn about the world.’ And that’s early on, so doesn’t count as a spoiler. As representative of all the other concise phrases…
And as representative the perspectives of all the characters, voiceover for all. Ms. Gerwig’s story about dying her hair according to the Man Who Fell to Earth contains the kind of understanding of history and desire found in the best novels.
It is kind.
Total Profits
My final note: ‘How did people miss this. It’s absolutely perfect.’ I don’t always punctuate correctly in the dark.
Total Losses


Thoughts on 20th Century Women

  1. Julia caston says:

    I totally agree, it was a perfect pearl in a sea of over rated movies.
    Loved it! Great piece this time, it’s so true, movies do give us that moral compass , and so many teaching moments. It’s that exact point I try to explain to people who hate movies and the business that surrounds making them.
    This particular movie was so personal to me. I felt like ( and probably) knew all of these characters. My childhood.
    Thanks for writing,

    1. Scott Scott says:

      I’m just so happy that you saw it AND liked it! Yay! And you’re right – I’d rather see a bad movie with good people than the other way around. Of course, if you have both…

      I wish it had gotten the attention it deserved, but maybe a second, better life on Netflix, as what happens with so many classics.

  2. Sentimental feminist says:

    Liked it too obviously..
    Only you can move me to tears following an offensive panegyric
    on porn.. this was heart rending and I too am immensely grateful for films and completely convinced they can save lives. Hope my eyesight never goes so I can keep having the complete cinematic experience !

    1. Scott Scott says:

      See, sometimes I’m right about films. Well, all the time, but sometimes other people agree! I’ll just have to get you a seeing-eye dog, who can describe the films for you. I know. It has to be a big dog, but the theaters will have to let you bring him.

Annoyed? Prove it!

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.