Ginger & Rosa Review

“Every man must struggle for his own authority, for his own autonomous thought.”

These words are spoken by Roland, father of the titular character of Ginger, who rejects the term “dad” for fear that this might be too repressive and bourgeois.

Either that or he’s a selfish, misogynistic prick.

So I’m going to take Roland’s fatherly advice to authoritatively say Ginger & Rosa left me decidedly underwhelmed.

Sally Potter’s story follows best friends Ginger and Rosa, played by Elle Fanning and Alice Englert respectively, as they juggle their own youthful pursuits for identity and maturity against the backdrop of nuclear anxiety and impending war.

Ginger, impassioned by a need to speak out against the nuclear threat, finds her voice in political activism. Although enthused by the fun of being an activist, Rosa finds her voice among activities in between bed linen instead; though this voice is more akin to cries of ecstasy than advocacy.

These two friends somewhat diverging interests are crystallised when Rosa, with all the self-centred charm of a rebellious sexually-weaponised teenager, embarks on an affair with Ginger’s dad.

Sorry, Roland.

This may sound exciting as a frisson of taboo-curdled electricity is thrown into a bloody battlefield of metaphors, pitting politics against sexuality and reason versus lust.
Well, it’s not.

In reality, the situation comes across as absurd; more than absurd, irritatingly unrealistic and bizarrely c’est la vie.

Rosa accelerates from being Ginger’s scruffy, youthful, pea-in-a-pod compatriot to Lolitafied lover, rubbing the shoulders of her best friend’s father and serving up bolognese like some middle-aged housewife.

Neither of them seem to give a flying fuck about Ginger which, frankly, feels ridiculous and renders the whole film utterly, aggravatingly pointless.

In my eyes at least.

Of course, there’s the very powerful, lofty, artistic suspension of disbelief that one must strap on for almost any film, but this is always informed by context.

A fantasy set in a world of hobbits, wizards and dwarves? Sure, a golden ring and a dead man’s flaming eye that has the power to conquer the world makes sense.

An action movie with a hero from a distant planet? Ok, so I’ll buy that this dude has the ability to fly and can turn back time by zooming round our Earth.

But Ginger & Rosa is supposedly grounded in reality, so the suspension of disbelief for the sake of the story falls flat because it’s illogical, insipid and forced.

All this plus the added bonus of delightful pretension that comes when the overlaid voice of Ginger recites her poems over jazz records at various points in the film.

It’s all fine and well to make budding poetry a part of Ginger’s character, something to further distance her from Rosa’s satisfaction seeking actions, but the way it’s presented feels a little too trite and a little too “film school”.

As you’d expect from a cast featuring Annette Bening, Christina Hendricks, Oliver Platt and Timothy Spall, the acting is sound. And that goes for Fanning and Englert too, whose respective industry birth rights have taught them well.

The camerawork is at times beautifully intimate, capturing the sensory aspects of the scenes with finesse and pulling the audience into the experience.

Apart from these things, I’m sad to say I couldn’t dig up any other positives from the mire of irritation that Ginger & Rosa left me with.

Even the narrative undertones of jarring idealism, freedom of expression and personal philosophies that should prick one’s curiosity on the nature of choice left me bored and again, irritated.

The so-called liberalist maxims by which daddy Roland stutteringly lives by are more flawed and one-dimensional than a dotted line, made all the more ridiculous by his status as an academic.

Perhaps he could have listened to his own words a little more carefully, as could the writer of Ginger & Rosa.

Seraphina Trent D’Arby

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Dates ‘n stuff

October 2012