By: Henry J. Fromage (Five Beers) –
There were two floral-themed female first name duo titles this year (try saying that five times fast), Ginger & Rosa and Violet & Daisy. One stars young ingénue Elle Fanning and an on-the-rise brunette co-star, the other stars young ingénue Saoirse Ronan and an on-the-rise brunette co-star. One is about teenage assassins taking down Tony Soprano. This, unfortunately, is the other one.
Can’t a mofo even get a walkie-talkie up in here?
Ginger & Rosa is about the titular duo- connected since birth and friends ever since. Their 17th year is a tumultuous one, both personally and historically, as they begin to drift apart and Britain s racked by social unrest and fear of nuclear attack.
One thing Ginger & Rosa does very well is establish setting and common history. The film begins with a beautiful, mostly wordless sequence that masterfully establishes setting, characters, and the shared past that informs their relationships. Too bad that focus and storytelling economy disappears when the plot starts.
I also have to give kudos where they’re due for the camerawork, full of tight, intimate shots that ground the viewer beautifully in the action. The cast is full of quality actors and nobody embarrasses themselves, unless you consider that debut actress Alice Englert rises above the lot of them.
And does a mean Zooey Deschanel to boot
What’s most impressive about Englert’s work is that she rises above a thoroughly underwritten character. Consists of a mass of conflicting character traits, from hinted at daddy issues yielding slutty behavior to carrying around a gaudy cross and going to church, which in this film is an insulting symbol of ignorance or at best naivety.
This is just one example of this movie’s heavy-handedness, which increases directly proportional to its runtime, so cleanly that you could chart it on a graph.
Behold the Pretension Curve
There’s a point where you begin to wonder if Sally Potter isn’t slyly critiquing just how full of shit these characters (and perhaps by extension, an era) are, as well as how indoctrination is still indoctrination, regardless of belief system (or purported lack thereof). Alas, unless I’m missing something, that’s probably giving the film too much credit.
I’ll swallow your ideology for 90 minutes if you give me a spoonful of sugar to help mask the taste. Like compelling characters, a well-placed plot, or even just an interesting filmmaking approach. Unfortunately none of these elements are present in enough quantity to sustain a story that doesn’t offer anything you haven’t seen before.
There are other elements of this film that rub me wrong, especially Elle Fanning’s English accent, which just sounds like someone putting on an English accent. She’s still young, though. Nope, this final beer has to go to the last scene. Remember that pretension curve I mentioned earlier? This is the apex. In it, Ginger reads a poem she wrote (she wants to be a poet, you see), explaining her feelings towards Rosa after all that’s passed between them. It’s excruciating.
I stopped reading teen girls’ diaries at least two years ago.
Director Sally Potter squanders a promising start and a nice roster of acting talent in this blond, blinkered coming of age tale.
Take a Drink: whenever you hear the word “nuclear”
Take a Drink: whenever Rosa acts like a bad influence
Do a Shot: whenever Roland is a creepster