Today: May 18, 2024
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Ginger And Rosa

Growing up is

never easy. Anyone who
tells you that your teenage years are the best of your life has probably never
had their head flushed down a loo or spent 4 days straight in their bedroom
listening to The Smiths and Tori Amos.
Pity poor Ginger (Elle Fanning)
then who instead must contend with the threat of impending nuclear devastation
and her imploding family life in director Sally
Potter
’s new film Ginger And Rosa.

 

It’s London, 1962, and 17-year-olds Ginger and Rosa (Alice Englert) have been best friends
since the womb having been born on the same day, the day the atom bomb
destroyed Hiroshima, ushering in the nuclear age and effectively ending the
Second World War. The pair are
inseparable; playing truant, hitchhiking, shrinking their jeans together,
smoking, mooning after boys. But
slowly they find their friendship tested by the different paths they are
on.

 

The child of outspoken, left-wing academic, the adulterous
Roland (Allesandro Nivola) and
frustrated artist Natalie (Christina
Hendricks
), the sweet, sensitive, poetry-writing Ginger is obsessed and
terrified by the threat of nuclear holocaust. Encouraged by her gay godfathers Marks One and Two (Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt) and their poet friend Bella (Annette Bening), Ginger joins CND
(the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament)
, becoming a committed activist. Rosa’s concerns however are less
worldly. Religious and a hopeless
romantic, she’s determined not to end up abandoned with kids like her single
mother. Rosa becomes increasingly
infatuated by the atheist Roland and they begin an affair, driving a wedge
between the two friends. With the
Cuban Missile Crisis threatening to spiral out of control and the world on the
brink of Armageddon, events come to a head as Ginger’s life goes into
meltdown.

 

A fairly traditional tale of intellectual and emotional
coming of age set against the backdrop of the Cold War and the Sexual Revolution,
Ginger And Rosa is perhaps the most
mainstream film of Sally Potter’s career and certainly her most accessible
since 1992’s Orlando. There’s nothing original about the
film, it’s pretty obvious and by-the-numbers, hitting all the beats you’d
expect, ticking off plot points like a checklist, a nice middle-class tale of
nice middle-class girls growing up.
But what sets it apart is its sense of place and time, its fantastic
performances and its warmth.

 

The world Ginger and Rosa inhabit is one that still bears
the scars of the Second World War and its aftermath. It’s a Britain that is stumbling into the light after the
dark years of war, rationing and hardship, where the Pill has kicked off the
Sexual Revolution, forever changing the role of women in society, where rock
and roll is giving birth to teenage culture and where the spectre of nuclear
war cast a dark shadow. But Potter
shoots the film through a prism of her own wistful nostalgia. Born in 1949, Potter herself was
hitting her teenage years around the same time as Ginger and Rosa and the film
is bathed in the golden sentiment of memory. Ginger may be overly earnest in her political and
intellectual engagement but she’s plagued by the same concerns and worries of
any teenager trying to find her way in society, negotiating the tricky waters
of adulthood. Her parents are a
mess, her father a posturing leftie justifying his selfishness through
rhetoric, her mother neurotic and emotionally abused, Ginger the rope in an
emotional tug of war.

 

The performances are fantastic. As her parents, Allessandro Nivola and Christina Hendricks
give understated, subtle turns, both mastering the British accent while Timothy
Spall, Oliver Platt and Annette Bening are great as Ginger’s intellectual and
emotional support network, Bening in particular splendid in the final third of
the film when her lofty New York Jewish intellectual finally unleashes some
righteous fury during the film’s emotional showdown, her Bella the impossible
to ignore voice of sense. Englert
is excellent as Rosa, a vulnerable teenager taking control of her own
sexuality, sympathetic while not always likeable. Fanning just gets better with every film. Just 13 when she shot Ginger And Rosa, her performance is
mature and wise, achingly heartfelt, a naïve, self-righteous girl clinging to
her principles as her world crumbles.

 

Beautifully shot and acted, Ginger And Rosa is a pleasingly sentimental, naturalistic portrait
of female teen friendship set against the turmoil of the early ‘60s.

 

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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