I recently saw the film 20th Century Women and thought it was an interesting commentary on the modern American family. It also drew a few key parallels from the 70's to today.
There were a lot of great stylistic elements and scenes throughout the film. Specifically, there was one scene in which all of the major characters are watching Jimmy Carter's now-infamous "Crisis of Confidence" speech. A speech which, upon re-watching, I think is actually quite good, poignant, and honest in a way the American public probably wasn't ready to hear at the time (or ever?). He criticizes Americans for "worshiping self-indulgence" and defining our worth by "what one owns". He discusses the disturbing trend of mistrust for institutions. In the film, the characters seem to solve these problems by building their own motley community based on the tenants of Dorothea Fields' (Annette Bening) home.
This specific scene of the characters watching the speech was only a minute or two at most, but it struck out to me as a key part of what made this film unique and interesting. The experience of seeing these characters react to President Carter's speech brought home how much and how little has changed in our society, communities, and politics since back then. It is a very interesting speech and definitely one that's surprising to hear a President make. It deals with abstract themes and concepts. I personally agree with a lot of what is said, but the recommended prescription seems missing. I am not surprised that Carter lost to President Reagan the following election. He was saying things few wanted to hear, but probably many needed to hear. In the film, Dorothea calls the speech "beautiful". Another (much younger) character says what we all know in present day to be true: there's no way he's getting reelected.
A lot of themes come up in this movie that are seeing a resurgence in today's "Trumpian" world. Feminism, art as rebellion, perceived moral decay. The late 70's in many ways are reminiscent of today's America: significant economic and social change coming to a head. Some argue that the issues of the 70's were never really solved, just papered over. I probably need to read up a bit more about the era to state any meaningful opinion of my own.
Regardless of one's sociopolitical perspectives on that era or today's, the film does a great job weaving that into the narrative without it feeling overbearing. Ultimately, this is just a movie about a mother and her son navigating a changing America.
I thought the performances were solid and the writing/plot reminded me a lot of movies like The Squid and the Whale and Submarine in which a young person gets thrust into a unique familial and/or romantic situation and learns how to adapt in the process. I enjoyed the style and definitely think it was underrepresented among this year's Academy Award nominees. I hope more people get a chance to see it.