20TH CEN­TURY WOMEN

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Writer-di­rec­tor Mike Mills paid trib­ute to his fa­ther in the wry and lov­ing Be­gin­ners (2010), which won a late-in-life Os­car for Christo­pher Plum­mer. Now it’s his mother’s turn, and An­nette Ben­ing’s spin on the role boosts this funny and kalei­do­scopic por­trait, Os­car-nom­i­nated for Best Orig­i­nal Screen­play. The film, set in 1979, ex­plores the rais­ing of fif­teen-year-old Jamie (Lu­cas Jade Zu­mann) by his sin­gle mother (Ben­ing), with in­put from a cou­ple of other women: Ab­bie (Greta Ger­wig), the twenty-some­thing pho­tog­ra­pher who boards in their ram­bling Santa Bar­bara house, and Julie (Elle Fan­ning), seven­teen, his best friend since child­hood. The one man in the pic­ture is an ex-hip­pie handy­man named Wil­liam (Billy Crudup) who fixes things around the house, and pro­vides what lit­tle adult male in­flu­ence Jamie gets in his life. Ben­ing, who can sep­a­rate a sin­gle ex­pres­sion into mul­ti­ple chap­ters, is flat-out su­perb, and the oth­ers don’t trail far be­hind. Rated R. 118 min­utes. Vi­o­let Crown. (Jonathan Richards)

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