Movie Review: Ginger & Rosa

Arthouse director Sally Potter takes on the coming of age story

Elle Fanning stars in Ginger & Rosa, opening at Victoria Area theatres this week

Elle Fanning stars in Ginger & Rosa, opening at Victoria Area theatres this week

Coming Of Age

In The Shadow

Of The Bomb

Coming-of-age stories are themselves almost a rite of passage for many young directors, so it’s interesting to see veteran arthouse writer-director Sally Potter (Orlando, The Tango Lesson) take a run at the genre. The resulting film, Ginger & Rosa, although conventional by Potter’s standards, is consistently engaging, thoughtful, and affecting. At the beginning of the film a flashback to the bombing of Hiroshima segues to a maternity ward in 1945 London, where two women give birth to daughters destined to become best friends. Jump ahead 16 years and Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) are inseparable. Ginger is an aspiring poet who worries about the possibility of nuclear annihilation if the Cold War gets out of hand. Rosa is the religious one, as well as a callow romantic who believes that true love always lasts forever.

Ginger seems to be trying out for the role of a bohemian, partially due to the influence of her father, Roland (Alessandro Nivola), a writer and teacher who boasts a bit too loudly about how he was imprisoned during the war because of his pacifist stance. She is closer to her dad than her mom (Christina Hendricks, Mad Men), who feels unhappy in her marriage. (Rosa’s mom has been on her own for years.) Adding further texture to the film are the parents’ free-thinking friends: two gay guys, Mark and Mark Two (amusingly portrayed by Oliver Platt and Timothy Spall), and a feisty feminist (Annette Bening, in a juicy cameo). Although used a bit for comic relief, these characters are interestingly unconventional role models for the precocious teens.

Ginger and Rosa have predictably sharp-edged and sometimes hostile relationships with their respective mothers. The camera doesn’t seem to judge them as they pursue typical teenage exploits with liquor and amorous boys, or conduct reckless hitchhiking adventures. There is a bit of a wry tone as these youthful idealists attend “ban the bomb” meetings, which are invariably located in grimy church basements and sparsely attended. The film ramps up the melodrama towards the climax as, in lockstep with the expanding Cuban Missile Crisis, Ginger and Rosa first become estranged and then eventually have a terrible falling out that involves their families and friends in a shocking predicament.

Reminiscent of 2009’s An Education, which also featured a highly intelligent girl in early ‘60s London, Ginger & Rosa has a strong period sense and lots of great jazz on the soundtrack. (Sophisticated Ginger even has a 45-rpm of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” that she plays alongside her more conventional teenbeat tunes.) The film has particularly good insight into those timeless teenage challenges: fraught friendships and turbulent emotions. This is well-travelled terrain to be sure, but it comes alive thanks to the strong performances at the centre of the film. Fanning is especially marvelous, communicating a full yet precisely controlled emotional spectrum with a fierce openness that is almost shocking in an actress who’s only 15. People bored with standard cineplex fare should definitely check this one out.

Rating: ***1/2

(Ginger & Rosa continues at the Empire 6)





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Film Listings:





PAIN & GAIN -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Westshore) Three Florida body builders come up with a really dumb idea involving a kidapping scheme that, no surprise, goes terribly wrong. This promising comedy stars Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg. Starts Fri.

THE BIG WEDDING -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4) A long-divorced couple (Robert De Niro and Dianne Keaton) pretend to still be married when their extended family meets for a huge wedding. With Katherine Heigl, Robin Williams, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace and Susan Sarandon. Starts Fri.

LUCKY DI AND THE UNLUCKY STORE -(Empire 6) This oddly titled and otherwise unknown movie is in Hindi, which is the only clue we have at present! Starts Fri.

THE HOST -(Caprice) The latest from Twilight author Stephanie Meyers is a sci-fi tale where aliens inhabit human bodies and erase their memories. But will true love be strong enough to help a hero and heroine fight back? Starts Fri.


THE CROODS -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Westshore) A prehistoric family taking an unexpected “road trip” into a magical land is the plot of this whimsical animated charmer (which has been getting great reviews). With the vocal talents of Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, and Ryan Reynolds.

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH -(Caprice) This animated adventure tale features a brave astronaut in peril because of inter-galactic bad guys. With the vocal talents of Brendan Fraser, Jessica Sarah Parker, and Jessica Alba.

★★½ EVIL DEAD -(Empire 6/Westshore) This 1981 “splatter” classic by horror maven Sam Raimi gets a clever but humourless remake for a new millennium, as five hapless 20somethings head to a remote cabin where they inadvertently summon a bunch of demons that proceed to torment and slaughter them with shocking enthusiasm.

★★★ 42 -(Odeon/Empire Uni 4/SilverCity) Here’s the amazing story of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, the supremely talented black player who broke the segregated sport’s colour barrier in the ’40s when he was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Hokey filmmaking, sure, but it’s a decent, feel-good history lesson.

★★ G.I. JOE: RETALIATION -(SilverCity/Westshore) This cartoonish action series gets really amped up in a sequel where the good guys are not only battling arch enemy Cobra but also struggling against dark forces lurking within their own goverment. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Pryce and Channing Tatum.

★★★½ GINGER & ROSA -(Empire 6) Elle Fanning stars in an engrossing and marvelously acted coming-of-age drama about two teenage girls in London who find their friendship unexpectedly challenged during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Directed by Sally Potter (Orlando). With Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt and Annette Bening. See review.

★½ IDENTITY THIEF -(Caprice) The considerable talents of Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) are wasted in this witless and often mean-spirited would-be comedy about a mild-mannered businessman who makes the grave mistake of tracking down the seemingly gentle woman who has stolen his identity.

★½ THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE -(Caprice) Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi don’t bring much joy to this uninspired comedy about a pair of Vegas magicians whose act has gone stale. Jim Carrey steals what little show there is as a Criss Angel-style “mind rapist” who specializes in extravagant displays of self-mutilation.

★★ JACK THE GIANT SLAYER-(Caprice) This is a disappointing, rather joyless variation on the Jack and the Beanstalk tale. Directed by Bryan Singer (Usual Suspects, X-Men) and starring Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, and Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies).

★★★★ JURASSIC PARK 3D -(Odeon/Empire Uni 4/SilverCity) Steven Spielberg’s classic 1993 tale of a dinosaur theme park where the toothy critters unexpectedly run amok gets a re-release in 3D.

★★½ LAST STAND -(Roxy, 9:05) Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger has been terminated as governor he’s back in front of the cameras, this time playing a past-his-prime small-town sheriff who is the only thing standing between a vicious gang of well-armed drug dealers on the lam and the Mexican border. Note: shifts from 7:00 to 9:05 on Friday.

★★½ OBLIVION -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) Tom Cruise stars in a visually stylish but rather dull and derivative sci-fi thriller about a man who returns to a ruined Earth to extract its remaining resources when strange things start to happen and he begins to question his mission and himself.

★★★ OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN -(SilverCity/Westshore) The White House has been invaded by terrorists and it is up to a disgraced former Presidential guard to use his skills and insider knowledge to try and free the President from his captors. As brainless popcorn movies go, this one is sleekly directed, well acted, and offers mayhem on an epic scale. Starring Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, and Aaron Eckhart.

★★½ OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL -(Empire 6/SilverCity) Sam Raimi directs an extravgant rendering of L. Frank Baum’s Oz novel, a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, about a small-time magician (James Franco) who ends up in a fantastical land where he can achieve true greatness if he becomes a hero by battling a terrible witch. Basically, there are too many special effects and not enough heart. With Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz.

★★★ THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) The new drama from the director of Blue Valentine stars Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, and Bradley Cooper in an overly ambitious tale with three intersecting storylines and an overarching theme about father-son relationships. This is far too long, but it has strong performances and is that almost extinct breed of film aimed at adults.

★★★ QUARTET -(Caprice) Dustin Hoffman turns in his directorial debut with this droll and heartfelt comedy about a retirement home for classical musicians where the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday is disrupted by the arrival of a diva’s diva (Maggie Smith). The great cast includes Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, and Pauline Collins.

★★★ REVOLUTION -(Odeon) The latest from documentary filmmaker Rob Stewart (Sharkwater) is more ambitious but less successful as it presents a wide-ranging argument about how fossil fuels are killing the oceans — and will soon be literally killing us.

★★★ SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK -(Roxy, 7:00) A bi-polar man (Bradley Cooper, The Hangover) is trying to put his life — and his marriage — back together when he meets a fascinating woman (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games) with problems of her own. This quirky romantic comedy is directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter).

★★★ SPRING BREAKERS -(Empire 6/SilverCity) It’s girls gone really wild, as four criminally inclined co-eds in need of spring break money start working for a drug and arms dealer. This is getting mostly great reviews, but it’s not clear if the movie is really satirizing teen-culture excess or merely wallowing in its most grotesque qualities.

★★★½ TRANCE -(Odeon) Classy English director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) helms this trippy film-noirish tale of art theft, amnesia, hypnosis, and different versions of reality. With James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson.


Leaving Thurs.

SCARY MOVIE 5 -(SilverCity/Westshore)


★★★★ LINCOLN -(Caprice)




FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES -(10 am, noon, 2 pm, 4 pm, 8 pm–Mon.-Thurs.)


THE LAST REEF -(1 pm, 5 pm)

★★★½ MYSTERIES OF THE GREAT LAKES -(11 am, 3 pm, 6 pm–except for Fri. & Sun.)

SKYFALL -(6 pm Sun. only)

TO THE ARCTIC -(7 pm, except Fri.-Sat.)




MUSIC MOVIE WEDNESDAY- Screening A Drummer’s Dream, a documentary where many of the world’s greatest drummers assembled in one place, along with 40 students for a remarkable workshop. 7 pm WEDNESDAY in the 1900-block Fort. By donation. 595-FLIC.

MOVIE MONDAY – Presenting Life of Pi. Oscar winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) helms this visually gorgeous adaptation of Yann Martel’s magical and spiritual novel about a young man’s epic adventures while lost at sea — most of which are shared with a terrifying Bengal tiger. 6:30 pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. By donation. 595-FLIC.

OPEN CINEMA -concludes its 10th season with Elemental, an award-winning doc about three individuals united by a fierce love of nature and a desire to confront our most pressing ecologial challenges. Eco-author Briony Penn will be part of the post-film discussion. WEDNESDAY, 7 pm, Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad Street.




Cinecenta at UVic screens its films in the Student Union Building. Info: 721-8365.


SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS -(Wed.-Thurs., April 24-25: 7:00, 9:10) This “gorgeously shot concert film” (The Guardian) documents the final concert of influential rockers LCD Sound System, who pulled the plug in 2011 at the height of their career.

★★★½ LIFE OF PI -(Fri.-Sat., April 26-27: 7:00, 9:25) Oscar winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) helms this visually gorgeous adaptation of Yann Martel’s magical and spiritual novel about a young man’s epic adventures while lost at sea — most of which are shared with a terrifying Bengal tiger.

★★ JACK THE GIANT SLAYER-(Sat.-Sun., April 27-28: 1:00 matinee) This is a disappointing, rather joyless variation on the Jack and the Beanstalk tale.

★★★ QUARTET -(Sun., April 28: 3:15, 7:00, 9:00 & Mon.-Tues., April 29-30: 7:00, 9:00) Dustin Hoffman turns in his directorial debut with this droll and heartfelt comedy about a retirement home for classical musicians where the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday is disrupted by the arrival of a diva’s diva (Maggie Smith). The great cast includes Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, and Pauline Collins.

★★★★ CABARET -(Wed., May 1: 7:00, 9:20) The rise of the Nazis in 1931 Berlin forms the backdrop for this sizzling and brilliant musical directed by Bob Fosse and starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York, and the great Joel Grey as the impish yet provocative emcee of the decadent Kit Kat Klub.




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