Ginger & Rosa (9/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 90 minutes.
Not for children.
I thought that existentialism
became passť upon the death of John Paul Sartre in 1980. You donít hear
much about it these days, but along comes this film whose prime mover is
Roland (Alessandro Nivola) whose daughter is the titular Ginger (Elle
Fanning). Weíre shown that Ginger is inseparable from her friend Rosa
(Alice Englert, who is presently being seen on the screen as the star of
Beautiful Creatures. This, however was her first film). Englert,
although not stunningly beautiful, exhibits a unique steamy sexuality
that marks her as a star in the making.
We meet Ginger and Rosa at
their birth in the same hospital on the same day in 1945 and get to know
them in 1962 at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, which Ginger
takes very seriously. Gingerís mother, Natalie (Christina Hendricks) is
in a terrible relationship with her husband, Gingerís father, Roland.
Like most existentialists, the things that Roland says sound wonderfully
intuitive. When disdaining religion, Roland tells Ginger, ďThe only life
we have is the one we have now which is why we must seize it.Ē That
sounds like such a wonderful, self-evident truth. Roland lives that. He
seizes it in a way that maximizes his pleasure, regardless of
responsibilities to family or to other people. As the film progresses
Roland is shown to be especially hatefully selfish. It is a wonderful
indictment of existentialismís self-absorption.
The cast is fantastic. Nivola
is charming and attractive. The way he expresses his existential beliefs
is captivating until one sees how he actually lives his philosophy in
the way treats his wife and daughter.
Fanning gives a fine, sensitive performance as the naÔve young girl getting to know
her own mind, torn between feuding parents and the actions of her best friend.
Oliver Platt and Timothy Spall
play the openly gay couple. Could there be a film about existentialism
in the 1960s without one such couple? Rounding out the cast is Annette
Bening, kind of a British answer to Gertrude Stein, a liberal single
woman writer with a butch haircut in this group of effete Bloomsbury
As good as the cast is, the
film is buttressed by wonderful cinematography (Robbie Ryan) and period
music (Amy Ashworth, Music Supervisor and Alan Lewens, Music
Written and directed by
confirmed feminist Sally Potter ("I came from an atheist background and
an anarchist background, which meant that I grew up in an environment
that was full of questions, where nothing could be taken for granted"),
this is a surprising indictment, at least to me, of the type of person
normally associated with people like Virginia Woolf (the author of the
book upon which Potterís 1992 film, Orlando, was based) and her
Regardless of (or maybe
because of) the ideological slant, this is a fascinating film.