In this time of political turmoil, in a world where fear dictates much of our actions and motivations, a movie set during the nuclear scare of the 1960’s like "Ginger & Rosa" should be relevant to today. We should share the character’s sadness and fear for what often seems to be a waiting game to our inevitable self-destruction. "Ginger & Rosa" has all the ingredients to do that, but, unfortunately, doesn’t mix them together very well. Its approach is unfocused and halfhearted and it lacks a reason to care. The film always feels like a film rather than an insight into a turbulent time, so the viewer always feels detached from what’s happening. It’s like when your leg starts tingling after seeing someone break theirs. You know what it feels like, but it’s not quite the same.
The story takes place in London in 1962 and follows Ginger (Elle Fanning), a 17 year old girl who is best friends with Rosa (Alice Englert). They live a pretty happy existence, but they’re becoming increasingly worried about all the talk on television about these new nuclear bombs, which, if detonated, would be powerful enough to make the Hiroshima bomb look like someone kicking over an anthill. Eventually, they start to join groups who protest the bomb. Ginger’s father, Roland (Alessandro Nivola), finds this to be a wonderful thing, as he was also an activist when he was younger. However, he and Ginger’s mother, Natalie, (Christina Hendricks), are about to go through a separation, which leads to a relationship between Roland and Rosa. Now Ginger has to deal with an unyielding fear of nuclear annihilation and a personal life that seems to be spiraling out of control.
Like many British dramas, including the good, but slightly overrated "An Education," "Ginger & Rosa" is slow paced. Although not an inherently bad thing, the film runs for less than an hour and a half, which makes the plodding narrative work counterproductively to the issues the film is trying to address. It simply doesn’t provide itself enough time to adequately explore both the personal story at hand and the threat of global extinction. Instead, it spends a minimal amount of time on both and neither really work.
Also like many British dramas, the acting is mostly terrific, particularly from Elle Fanning, who is proving herself to be quite the talent, even if she hasn’t quite gotten to the point where she can carry a movie. Much like her sister Dakota, her talent always shines through with each performance without ever nailing that “wow” factor that would make her stand out. Unfortunately, the buzz surrounding this movie isn’t due to its overall quality, but rather solely her performance. This focus on performance over story relegates the movie to merely admirable rather than truly entertaining.
Considering the fact that "Ginger & Rosa" has to coast by almost entirely on Fanning’s performance, the film quickly finds itself in bad shape. It’s a shame because the few times it does get interesting is when it explores, however briefly, its themes. Ginger’s father, for instance, isn’t a religious man and tries to explain to her that God is a construct of the mind, not an inherent trait or belief we’re born with, but rather an idea that is planted there by those who created it. Nevertheless, Ginger’s fear of worldwide catastrophe drives her, at least in some capacity, to religion—the innate fear of death is what drives everyone to religion. Of course, a real transition never fully takes place, once again ignored by a screenplay that doesn’t know where it wants to go. What could have been timely and necessary viewing for today’s generation instead becomes another forgettable, unworthy addition to an increasingly underwhelming cinematic landscape.
Ginger & Rosa receives 2/5