British director Sally Potter’s work comes in variable qualities, from the excellent Orlando and Yes to the less auspicious Rage. Sadly, Ginger and Rosa will likely come to roost in the latter category, tracking a young woman’s meltdown as her coming of age coincides nicely with the Cuban missile crisis and the breakup of her parents’ marriage. Elle Fanning’s performance as Ginger, although astonishing given her age (12 at the time of casting) wobbles a little too predictably from adolescence to adulthood, poetry and political engagement in anti-nuclear protests.
As her best friend Rosa, Alice Englert draws the one-dimensional straw of easier life choices involving cigarettes, prayer and men whilst Christina Hendricks as Ginger’s frustrated mother doesn’t hold up well as a likely victim of infidelity. It’s only the more complex figure of Roland (Alessandro Nivola as Ginger’s dad) who captures the ambiguities and fears of a time in which everything seemed up for emotional grabs.
This uneven quartet is, however, ably supported by Annette Bening and Oliver Platt, who play family friends of the less self-involved variety able to bring Ginger’s fears into contemporary adult focus, supplanting the BFF phase with gentle, resolute companionship: a welcome reminder of Potter’s skills as a female filmmaker with a particular empathy for women in life-changing situations.
Ginger and Rosa | Directed by Sally Potter (UK, Denmark, Canada, Croatia 2012). Start April 11