In 1979, 15 year-old Jamie (Zumann) lives a bohemian existence with his single mother Dorothea (Bening) and her two tenants in Santa Barbara: photographer Abbie (Gerwig) and William, an amiable though aimless handyman (Crudup). Jamie has an unreciprocated crush on Julie (Fanning), his older best friend. Unsure how to guide her son into manhood, Dorothea asks the women in his life to help with his ongoing education.
A powerhouse performance by Bening anchors this quirky, warmhearted drama from “Beginners” director Mills. Using voice-over, stills and movie clips, Mills masterfully paints portraits of his characters and reflects on the sexual and political mores of the time with humor and pathos. Though its whip-smart screenplay was nominated for an Oscar, Bening was criminally overlooked; her loving, slightly kooky feminist is the beating heart of this deeply felt drama.