Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
March 21, 2013
**1/2 (out of four)
Two-thirds of a good movie, “Ginger and Rosa” eventually falls victim to the “What's the worst thing that could happen here?” theory of screenwriting without considering whether it makes sense.
Before that, teens Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert of “Beautiful Creatures”), best friends and daughters of best friends, are inseparable. In jeans and bras they bathe together to get the jeans to fit right. Ginger irons Rosa's hair. Taking a open-air truck ride with Ginger's dad, Roland (Alessandro Nivola), the girls scream, taking in the feeling of being young and alive like the kids in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
Writer-director Sally Potter gradually aims to suggest incompatible ideologies between the BFFs, as Rosa seeks everlasting love and Ginger focuses on the possibility of the world's impending demise. (The film is set in early-’60s London.) She commits to activism and protesting the bomb while Rosa, well, I won't ruin it, but let's just say we'd all hope most best friends would be more considerate before doing what Rosa does.
The girls are young, of course, and at an age when mistakes happen as a function of growing up. Also great in “Somewhere” and “Super 8,” Fanning is tremendously talented, and as Ginger she's always in the moment, trying to understand the world and her place in it. Frustration with her mom (Christina Hendricks) and the role of women in the workplace (or lack thereof) contributes to Ginger's instability, though in terms of point of view “Ginger and Rosa” unfolds more like “Ginger ... and also Rosa.”
Potter deserves credit for including big ideas about faith and war in a coming-of-age story, even if she doesn't really pull it all off. Compared to other stories about female friendship, “Ginger and Rosa” weighs a great deal more, focusing on travels across an emotional spectrum rather than, say, traveling pants.
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