Review: Ginger & Rosa (2012)

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Cast: Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Annette Bening
Director: Sally Potter
Country: UK | Denmark | Canada | Croatia
Genre: Drama
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: Ginger & Rosa opens in limited release on March 15th

Sally Potter lets there be little doubt as to the relevance of the title of her latest film Ginger & Rosa as, with the neat aid of a handful of visually stimulating editorial matches, she rushes us from the birth of her dual eponymous protagonists to their adolescent lives as inseperable best friends. There’s an immediacy to the pair’s relationship—and indeed to the film itself—as presented in these opening moments, the succession of short scenes affording us but the briefest of glimpses into a friendship as it evolves and strengthens through the years. The rapidly established vibrancy and vividness of this dynamic, of course, tells us not just that our titular heroines are close as close can be; it also allows us, immediately, to presage its eventual, inevitable decline.

Her growing obsession with the omnipresent threat of nuclear annihilation underpins the drama with a harrowing fatalism that nods to the ultimate futility of all narrative action; meticulously constructing this emotional crescendo, Fanning easily proves her leading lady capability.

ginger4The respective routes Ginger and Rosa take, in terms philosophical and political as well as spiritual and personal, underline the sprawling directions of a world pitched at a point of crisis. Potter sets the drama in 1962, framing her young characters’ growth in the context of the Cold War and the sexual revolution but taking care never to define them thereby; particular as this story is to its time, it speaks also to universal ideas of adolescence that transcend any such temporal boundaries. These find expression primarily through Ginger, far more so the protagonist of the piece and played with determined strength and delicate fear by an enthralling Elle Fanning. Her growing obsession with the omnipresent threat of nuclear annihilation underpins the drama with a harrowing fatalism that nods to the ultimate futility of all narrative action; meticulously constructing this emotional crescendo, Fanning easily proves her leading lady capability.

Less confident in meeting the vocal demands of the role than the emotional, Fanning adopts a curiously affected accent, her excessive intonations singling her speech out as particularly rehearsed and recited. It’s an issue matched, though to a lesser degree, by Christina Hendricks as Ginger’s mother, leaving those few scenes between her and Fanning alone particularly dry affairs that play more like dress rehearsal than the dramatically engaging mother-daughter moments they should—and indeed need to—be. Albeit for reasons entirely different, it’s an issue that befalls one too many of the key relationships on which the drama depends, the depth of Ginger’s character ultimately matched by few others, the grand narrative they interlink to espouse undermined by the hysterical leaps the conclusion resultantly requires.

Easily numbered amongst the most promising of rising cinematographic talents, Robbie Ryan contributes his formidable technical capabilities to the realisation of Potter’s vision, the pair between them visually evincing Ginger’s personal and ideological evolution with a dynamic implementation of light and shadow.

ginger3Their characters and their interaction may do the material a disservice, but none could question the success of the cast Potter assembles. Annette Bening heads the resplendent gallery of supporting talent, playing a like-minded activist under whose wing Ginger finds the warmth she lacks at home, and contributing perhaps the finest of a succession of grandstanding moments towards the film’s conclusion. Alessandro Nivola is Ginger’s philandering father, emphatic despite his many transgressions—though not so much as Hendricks, who seethes with the pain of his abandonment—if slightly squandered in the limited role to which he is consigned. Best are Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt as Ginger’s gay godparents, their pairing giving us one of those rare perfections of casting that sees these characters, and the film in tow, brought resoundingly to life.

Easily numbered amongst the most promising of rising cinematographic talents, Robbie Ryan contributes his formidable technical capabilities to the realisation of Potter’s vision, the pair between them visually evincing Ginger’s personal and ideological evolution with a dynamic implementation of light and shadow. Right through to the final frame, Ryan’s work gives us what the writing never quite manages; much like the magnificent cast, he gives us illusion enough to distract from the gaps inherent within the material.

[notification type=”star”]64/100 ~ OKAY. Dynamic cinematographic talents and a magnificent cast give us illusion enough to distract from the gaps inherent within Ginger & Rosa.[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.