wed 23/04/2014

DVD: Ginger & Rosa | Film reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Ginger & Rosa

Sally Potter's drama of teenage friendship and betrayal implodes in its final act

Are friends electric?: Alice Englert as Rosa (left) and Elle Fanning as GingerBFI/BBC

Sally Potter has forged an admirable career as an independent British filmmaker. She has avoided formulas, made daring visual experiments, and been committed to a highly personal art cinema. Among her movies, there have been two dazzling achievements, The Gold Diggers and Orlando, and an audacious vanity project, The Tango Lesson.

It’s arguable, however, whether Potter has developed as a muscular storyteller. Set in 1962 against the background of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Cuba missile crisis, her depiction of the collapsing friendship of 17-year-olds Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) suggests an intriguing metaphor: the threat of global obliteration twinned with the volatility of girls on the cusp of womanhood. Their journey is absorbing as far as it goes, but it disintegrates in the botched third act.

'Ginger & Rosa' has an impressively claustrophobic, pre-Beatlemania mood

Earlier, the seductive Rosa has committed an emotional outrage against the politically conscious protagonist Ginger – one likely to leave her with an irresolvable Electra complex. The same outrage causes another character to lose control, plunging the movie into melodrama. Unforgivably, this superseding of Ginger’s crisis knocks her journey off its axis. Sandra Goldbacher’s comparable girls' tale Me Without You (2001) made no such structural error. 

Atmospherically photographed by Robbie Ryan, Ginger & Rosa has an impressively claustrophobic, pre-Beatlemania mood that aligns it with the British New Wave. Perplexingly, the casting of five American actors has robbed it of vital Englishness. As well as Fanning, there's Christina Hendricks (miscast as Ginger's unfulfilled mum), Alessandro Nivola (fine as Ginger's bohemian pacifist dad, a rationalising philanderer estranged from his wife), Annette Bening (a rote feminist), and Oliver Platt (one half of a gay couple with Timothy Spall).

The two young actresses are commendable: Fanning,13 when she made the film, is restrained as the bewildered seeker Ginger, though she's too much of a beacon marching at Aldermaston with her fake red hair. The Australian Englert (Jane Campion’s daughter) is equally effective as Rosa, whose narcissism sanctions treachery.

Watch the trailer here


The casting of five American actors has robbed the film of vital Englishness

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