Knowing that it doesn’t take a man to raise a man, single mom Annette Bening duly deputizes surrogate “daughters” Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning, assigning them the role of dual consigliere to look after her 15-year-old son (Lucas Jade Zumann). Once the fastidiously worded dual voice-over narration commences, the characters seldom come up for air. Quality-wise, Women lands somewhere between writer-director Mike Mills’s two predecessors, Thumbsucker and Beginners. The equal numbers of flaws (repetition and a reliance on verbs over visual action) and virtues (an at-times mindful discourse handed over by a near-perfect cast) have a tendency of cancelling each other out. Well worth a look if just for the performances, but know going in that director Mills calls upon his cast and script to do most of the heavy lifting. One unhappy exception to that rule: he imposes an occasional switch into Koyaanisqatsi mode to give the illusion of smeary LSD trails. It’s an unnecessary stylish distraction that achieves the (possibly) desired effect of drawing more attention to his sparkling dialogue. (2016) — Scott Marks
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