20th Century Women

Critics Consensus

20th Century Women offers Annette Bening a too-rare opportunity to shine in a leading role -- and marks another assured step forward for writer-director Mike Mills.



Total Count: 217


Audience Score

User Ratings: 12,823
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Movie Info

During the summer of 1979, a Santa Barbara single mom and boardinghouse landlord (Annette Bening) decides the best way she can parent her teenage son (Lucas Jade Zumann) is to enlist her young tenants - a quirky punk photographer (Greta Gerwig), a mellow handyman (Billy Crudup) and her son's shrewd best friend (Elle Fanning) - to serve as role models in a changing world.


Annette Bening
as Dorothea Fields
Billy Crudup
as William
Alison Elliott
as Julie's Mother
Thea Gill
as Abbie's Mother
Vitaly A. Lebeau
as Young Jamie
Olivia Hone
as Julie's Sister
Cameron Protzman
as Teen In Therapy
Victoria Bruno
as Teen In Therapy
John Billingsley
as Abbie's Obgyn
Zoe Nanos
as Tanya
Lauren Foley
as Michelle
Gareth Williams
as Fire Chief
Zoë Worth
as Planned Parenthood Worker
Finn Roberts
as Tim Drammer
Laura Wiggins
as Lynette Winters
Rick Gifford
as Police Officer
Paul Tigue
as Jamie's School Principal
Matthew Foster
as Dorothea's Bank Manager
Kirk Bovill
as Dorothea's Dinner Guest
Victoria Hoffman
as Dorothea's Dinner Guest
Christina Andrea Offley
as Dorothea's Dinner Guest
Randy Ryan
as Dorothea's Dinner Guest
Diana Bostan
as William's Woman
Toni Gaal
as William's Woman
Tanya Young
as William's Woman
Hans-Peter Thomas
as Abbie's NYC Boyfriend
Kai Lennox
as Reporter/Abbie's Future Husband
Paul Messinger
as Santa Barbara City Official
Eric Wentz
as Emergency Room Doctor
Sam Gros
as Emergency Room Nurse
Britt Sanborn
as Emergency Room Nurse
Catherine Zelinsky
as Girls Choir
Boyce Buchanan
as Girls Choir
Kyle Olivia Green
as Girls Choir
Sam Marsh
as Girls Choir
Sara Pelayo
as Girls Choir
Annabelle Lee
as Girls Choir
Avi Boyko
as "Phlask" (Club Band)
Tyler Leyva
as "Phlask" (Club Band)
Cameron Simon
as "Phlask" (Club Band)
Hayden Gold
as Julie's Hesher Friend
Al Wexo
as Julie's Stepdad
Peter Mason
as Bi Plane Pilot
Padriac Cassidy
as Drafting Office Manager
Toni Christopher
as Woman At Bar
Jesse Sanes
as "Snake Fang" (House Party Band)
Sam Bosson
as "Snake Fang" (House Party Band)
Ian Logan
as "Snake Fang" (House Party Band)
Patrick Pastor
as "Snake Fang" (House Party Band))
Trent Bowman
as Ramp Skater
Justin T. Rivera
as Ramp Skater
Desmond Shepherd
as Ramp Skater
Joshua Burge
as Abbie's Friend
Daniel Dorr
as Abbie's Friend
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News & Interviews for 20th Century Women

Critic Reviews for 20th Century Women

All Critics (217) | Top Critics (40) | Fresh (193) | Rotten (24)

  • It's a nice film with some great moments but Mills' touch is too tentative to make all that talk buzz and hum as resonantly as it should.

    May 31, 2017 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Exasperatingly supercilious and smug - unfocused, self-consciously cute, nostalgic and empathetic, but never properly funny. It feels like someone else's long therapy session.

    Feb 9, 2017 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Mills' perspective on formative relationships is absorbing, and he seems like a great guy.

    Feb 7, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Mills's world is certainly not devoid of pain, but it's leached of bitterness, leached of conflict, leached of aggression, leached of hostility; the pain and the trauma are leached of consequence.

    Jan 23, 2017 | Full Review…
  • The film is well worth a look, if just for the performances; just know going in that director Mills calls upon his cast and script to do most of the heavy lifting.

    Jan 20, 2017 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • It's a credit to Mills that he makes it feel like he's making the Earth move even when he's just capturing a snapshot in time.

    Jan 20, 2017 | Rating: B | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for 20th Century Women

  • Jun 19, 2017
    It begins dull and uninteresting but later becomes an adorable and complex film drenched in nostalgia, with a great soundtrack, an Oscar-deserving award by Annette Bening and an impressive cinematography that makes it look like it was really made in the late 1970s.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 14, 2017
    Films like this seem to be inevitable each year. A tone that is off-putting, while still telling a compelling story, making the overall film solid, but underwhelming. In my opinion, films like last year's Carol or 2014's Foxcatcher came to mind when I was watching 20th Century Women. Almost all of the subject matter was interesting to me and everyone was giving great performances, but the very slow pace and dull tone really took away from the impact. Nominated for best screenplay at the upcoming Oscars, I can see why people are raving about certain aspects of this film. That being said, I found myself bored throughout the majority of this well-made film. I feel conflicted about this film, but nevertheless, let's dive in. From cancer to the loss of people close to you, this film explores many different aspects of the hardships of life. Focussing mostly on three women (all different ages) as they explore their lives in ways that most people do every day, at its core, 20th Century Women is really just about life and what comes with it. Taking place in only a few locations throughout the majority of the picture, it really is all about the characters at hand, which I found interesting, but also utterly boring. When a film like this is made, I always hope that every single character moves me in different ways, but everyone seemed so miserable most of the time that it just reflected in my reaction to the film as a whole. The biggest highlight of this film was watching the character of Julie, played very well by Elle Fanning. Her character slowly transforms throughout the film and realizes that certain things are better left alone. This was a trend I noticed throughout the entire film to be honest. The younger characters seemed to have much more to work with her, while the adults all seemed dead inside. I liked watching Annette Bening in films like The Kids are All Right or American Beauty, but her performance here was very one-note in my opinion. Her expressions were either depressing to look at or happy for a instant. There were many times where I was hoping it would cut back to the younger characters quicker, because they were just simply the best portion of the film. While I must admit that the direction is pretty terrific for the most part, the tone did not click with me. At least it was able to keep itself consistent throughout the course of the film, but the drab look just made me bored. I seem to be using the word boring a lot, but when there are no exciting moments in a film that is all about self-discovery and hardships, there really isn't anything to get excited about when talking about 20th Century Women. Now, as I mentioned, the tone itself is well-done and kept very consistent, so I was very impressed by the fact that they decided to go with a very quite route for this story. The style and editing choices really make this the definition of an indie film and I am glad this film was acknowledged in some capacity. In the end, Mike Mills has written and directed a very compelling piece of filmmaking and I can't fault him for a second. I do however think that his script could have been translated to screen in a more vibrant and energetic way. 20th Century Women takes itself very, very seriously, leaving hardly any fun to be had. There are moments when I was hoping for lighter music to be playing or certain scenes to be trimmed down, but everything seems to be very dragged out. It's the odd case where the film itself is very good, but still has numerous minor issues that bothered me throughout. This is also a film with tremendous editing and there were times when that element alone was sucking me in. I am going to recommend this film to a mature audience, due to the fact that its themed have been well-realized and require your full attention. Overall, 20th Century Women is a solid film that could have been great.
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Feb 02, 2017
    Time is fleeting. This is a phrase heard countless times throughout our youth and throughout our life as a reminder to cherish the days we're living in as they'll be gone before we realize it. What we never realize though, is just how fleeting such times are when we're actually in them. The young man at the center of 20th Century Women, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), was born in 1964 with the film opening in 1979. This makes Jamie a young fifteen as made even more apparent by his clear skin and boyish features that render him still a child in our minds rather than the adult he would have us believe he is becoming. My own father was born in 1964 and I can't say I've ever considered what the world looked like at the time of his most formative years. Hell, I don't know that I ever even realized it was the fall of 1980 when he turned sixteen-with only six years to go until he married my mother on the cusp of his twenty-second birthday. Sure, I've heard him tell stories of the things he did as a young boy with his older brother and neighborhood friends, but never did I take a minute to step back and look at the bigger picture; really consider the world they were living in at that time. With 20th Century Women writer/director Mike Mills (Beginners) explores these small, fleeting moments in time and reflects on what made what is presumed to be his mother, his mother. This isn't simply presented by the circumstances of her life, but by the circumstances of the time in which she was born. This is a fascinating way of perceiving things, but can also be rather dangerous considering the infinite possibilities one can imagine were they to consider who they or someone they know/love might have been were they born in a different time. This framing of lives through fleeting moments with the added perception of where each of the individuals chronicled came from and where they're going reveals a lot of truths, but mostly it works best by affirming what we don't always have enough time to acknowledge-that happiness comes most naturally when we're not actively trying to chase it. read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com
    Philip P Super Reviewer
  • Jan 19, 2017
    Mills has refined his style and writing here, crafting a unique character study that deliberately avoids simplistic resolutions. One of the few period films set in the 70s that never gets overpowered by cliched aesthetics.
    Alec B Super Reviewer

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