Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ginger and Rosa (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Ginger & Rosa

Cult favorite Sally Potter who directed the confrontational, David Bowie-like "Orlando" (1992), offers a story of young obsession in "Ginger & Rosa". Ginger and Rosa are two idealistic teens who latch onto each other in London in 1962. The two begin to obsess not only with themselves but also with the prevalence of nuclear weapons. The Cuban Missile Crisis hangs in the distance over London, a formless but toxic cloud. This gives some interesting historical tension to a rather tethered and tame friendship drama. With every discussion about poetry, romance or hair there is an image of a warhead or mushroom cloud and this apocalyptic garnish gives the dialogue a punk and iconoclastic edge.

Sally Potter's verve with the camera is in evidence here as it zips about to and fro, almost touching the skin of these two smothering soul mates.

Ginger and Rosa spend their time going to disarmament meetings with evangelical zeal as the adults look on with the passivity of human furniture, but rather than a weakness, this is actually a philosophic point in the film. As the grown-ups go through the motions, it is the young people (or specifically young girls ) who rise to the challenge.

Elle Fanning is sparky and engaging as the eerie yet volatile Ginger, whose paleness combined with her almost sudden catlike motions and animalistic spasms, transforms her into a maddened Ophelia for the Greenpeace set. Alice Englert (from Beautiful Creatures) provides a good balance in her role as Rosa who is driven to taste The Beat definition of free love.

In content and spirit "Ginger & Rosa" echo British films like "Submarine" (2010) and Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank" (2009). These films were semi-comedic moody studies about young people locked in various romantic dilemmas only to become stressed out by pop culture and parental expectations.

In "Ginger & Rosa" the action moves along fine with enough one liners and naturalistic detail (as depicted in predictably gray rooms and ashen parks). The only drawback is that the story is more of a vibration in character than a drama with frisson, as first bouts of  infatuation tend to be. Be that as it may, "Ginger and Rosa" still makes a satisfying addition to the small indie friendship-film canon.

Annette Bening, Oliver Platt and Timothy Spall all deliver solid outings as an activist friend and the godfathering couple to Ginger, respectively.

Although you might want a spot more of volcanic give and take throughout this loping tale of trysts, there is enough color in Elle Fanning's pale but understandable manias to make you see red and keep watching. Ginger is calm and over-spiced by turns---a Morrissey minion before her time--and when she states the facts of nuclear doom, her icy clarity elevates the narrative well above its soap. Ginger's anxiety is a singular element combined with the added ferrous ferociousness of all things witchy.

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