What the fuck is a theme aesthetic? Who knows! Who cares!? Not this free bird.
Have you seen 20th Century Women yet? If not, wait no more—it is weirdly delightful and well worth your time. My favorite things about it were, in uncertain order, Billy Crudup, Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, the kid who plays the kid, and the Fanning sister. In short, I loved everybody. Whether or not you will love it depends on how you react to this description, from a recent New Yorker profile of writer/director Mike Mills: "The film’s only adult male is William, an earnest mechanic who makes his own shampoo." For me that's solid cinematic goddamn gold, and Billy Crudup sells it like a sad, befuddled champ. (The profile itself is notable for every line spoken by Mills' wife, Miranda July, but especially this part: "Much as July loves her husband’s work, she remains mystified by the gap between his actual childhood—“You could hug Mike for a long time, and it wouldn’t be enough”—and these glowing portraits. “It’s almost what you would do in some spiritual practice,” she said. “A devotion to an absence.” How clearly do you need to be able to see and describe a person to come up with a reading like that? I was also struck by this, from director Joachim Trier, because it describes another of my favorite visual/tonal/philosophical vibes: “There’s a Todd Rundgren-ness to Mike’s work, a Steely Dan coolness, the melancholy low light of a late California afternoon in Laurel Canyon.”)
Anyway, Annette Bening is my new theme aesthetic, is what this post is supposed to be about. Obviously I've had a lot of coffee this morning. But look at how gorgeous and comfortable and chill she is, all fully adult glamour without being at all fussy:
It may be impossible to draw a single thread through all of Annette Bening’s performances to neatly cinch together her legacy. But if one thing connects the great actress's many onscreen women, it’s the mischievous confidence she brings to that simple, irreverent question, “Why not?” Annette broke through in 1990 with her Academy Award-nominated turn in “The Grifters” as a sexy, unapologetic con artist who figured: Why not use what Mama gave her? In “Bugsy,” her brassy dame wondered: Why not double-cross a mobster? In “The American President,” her spitfire lobbyist asked: Why not fall in love and spar with the most powerful man in the world? In “American Beauty,” “Being Julia” and “Mrs. Harris,” her characters ultimately concluded: Why not fight to be free, even if it means finally owning up to an affair, destroying a young rival onstage or killing your beloved? “I’m always trying to get out of clichés of portraits of women,” the 58-year-old actress told @nytimes, adding that she's not interested in idealizing women. "That's so boring." @chadbatka took this portrait of #AnnetteBening in New York.