20th Century Women ★★½

Beware the movie where people sit on a bed but do not have sex, head propped up on one elbow, chatting away about the meaning of life, for therein lies the self-indulgent essence of indieness.

Actually that's not fair because, viewed alone, any fifteen minutes of Mike Mills’s “20th Century Women” makes for almost intoxicatingly vibrant viewing. First, it was shot exquisitely by cinematographer Sean Porter. More than that, it is a showcase for powerfully alive performances by Greta Gerwig and, especially, Annette Bening—who renders her character with revelatory nuance and naturalness. Her work far exceeds the ability of the script to pursue a trajectory of any particular merit, though. The film mostly cascades from one compellingly rendered scene to the next, providing wonderful dialogue for its lead actresses to chew on, but never managing to amount to much of anything. Inevitably it pitfalls into triteness, and will frustrate anyone who has greater ambitions for the parts to amount to something more. At the end of the day it may be most noteworthy for squandering a truly amazing contribution from Annette Bening, who deserved a lot more than just some terrific lines—this could've been a great movie.