Writer/director Sally Potter‘s Ginger & Rosa isn’t a bad film by any means, but it’s certainly more concerned with showcasing the talents of its actors (particularly its young leading lady) than presenting a compelling tale set in 1962 London against the backdrop of nuclear proliferation and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Elle Fanning stars as Ginger, the smart daughter of an irresponsible father (Alessandro Nivola) and demanding mother (Christina Hendricks). She’s also surrounded by a collection of equally pompous and pretentious role models (Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening) who feed the girl’s interest in activism and rebellion without taking the slightest interest in what is going on inside Ginger’s impressionable young mind.
The calm in the storm for Ginger comes in the form of her lifelong best friend Rosa (Alice Englert). By far the more extroverted and promiscuous of the pair, Rosa continues to push Ginger into taking chances and having fun.
The story takes a dramatic (and heavily foreshadowed turn) when Rosa’s latest attempt at seizing the moment involves having an affair with her best friend’s father. As Ginger’s personal life slowly begins to crumble she embraces the ideas of increasing violent activism with a passion. Although these ideas manifest in nothing stronger than a sit-in broken up by the police, Ginger’s obsession and slow decent into depression finally forces those around her to take notice.
Potter’s latest is borderline Oscar bait, but Fanning’s dramatic turn keeps the film afloat even when the story doesn’t support it. Ginger & Rosa is far more about capturing Ginger’s emotional reaction to events which spiral out of her control than the events themselves or their consequences. It’s not quite focused enough to be a character study, and lacks any real message about the ideas of free speech and activism. The result is collection of characters who are far less interesting than than actors portraying them.