Craig's Movie Breakdown: Ginger and Rosa

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Rewind back to London 1962, and teenagers Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) are inseparable; they skip class together, discuss religion, politics and hairstyles, and dream of lives bigger than their mothers' frustrated domesticity. But, as the Cold War meets the sexual revolution, and the threat of nuclear holocaust looms even closer, the lifelong bond between the two girls is fractured by the dramatically changing circumstances of the times in which they're living.
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Three Things to Know Before the Movie:

1. Writer-Director Sally Potter dropped out of school at 16 to pursue a career in filmmaking. It is a career that spans over three decades, but one where she has remained primarily on the fringes of independent cinema. Regardless, she has worked with some premiere acting talent like Julie Christie (“The Gold Diggers”), Tilda Swinton (“Orlando”), Johnny Depp, Cate Blanchet (“The Man Who Cried”), and Jude Law, Steve Buscemi, Judi Dench (“Rage”).

2. Star Elle Fanning is of course the younger sister of Dakota, and has thus far cut out quite a career of her own. Her last couple roles, in movies like Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere” and J.J Abrams “Super 8” in particular, have each shown strong talent and she’s set to take on her biggest role yet coming next summer as Princess Aurora in Disney’s live action “Sleeping Beauty” film “Maleficent” with Angelina Jolie.

3.The rest of the cast includes Alice Englert, daughter of filmmaker Jane Campion (“The Piano”), who previously starred in the adaption of YA novel “Beautiful Creatures”, Annette Benning (“The Kids are Alright”, “American Beauty”), Oliver Platt (“Lake Placid”), Christina Hendricks of “Mad Men”, and Allesandro Nivola (“Face-Off”, “Jurassic Park 3”).

Review:

Boring isn’t exactly the right word I want to use here to describe Potter’s work, but this movie sadly never feels all that whole. It has a few interesting scenes and the lead performance by Elle Fanning is fantastic but mostly it just feels dramatically slight, like things only happen just so that the main character can react to them but never really build towards anything.

Fanning takes on the lead role here of Ginger, living in 1962 Britain with her inseparable best friend since birth, Rosa (Englert). The two spend their time reading girl magazines, trying on clothes, and generally just running around enjoying themselves.

But the world is closing in. For Rosa, her hormones are starting to kick-start, which means she wants to find enduring love. For Ginger, she is more concerned with the nuclear war that Cuba could start. Ginger is also caught in the middle of an ugly separation between her pompous, philandering professor father (Nivola) and the sad mother (Hendricks) who Ginger believes is pushing him away.

Potter touches on political activism, she touches on what happens when a friendship takes two divergent paths, and how a girl wants to trust her father, while seemingly trying to avoid the mistakes of her mother. It’s compelling stuff but sadly can only come up with a few excellent scenes in between just a lot of passivity.

Fanning is the real bright spot here. She gives Ginger a youthful innocence, a strong fear and willingness to change the ills of the world, but her best work comes later when the betrayal of those closest to her sends her into a mental tailspin. The rest of the cast isn’t allowed to be nearly as good. Englert is fine but underdeveloped. Oliver Platt and Timothy Spall are Ginger’s caring godfathers but we barely get to know them. Annette Benning plays some poet-activist who lives with them but there’s not much information as to who she is or why she’s living with them. Nivola is suitably pretentious and Hendrick’s pained expression goes a lot further than anything written in the script.

It’s Fanning’s show though and she adds another fantastic performance to a growing list. The movie may not be much of anything but she’s rapidly outpacing her older sister and poised to become one of our best actresses.