Movie review in the Friday, March 29 Oregonian....
"Ginger & Rosa" is a potent little period drama from writer/director Sally Potter ("Orlando") about rebellion, fear, compromise, and the wildly inappropriate things adults can do while using their "ideals" as an excuse.
But most viscerally, it's about Potter keeping her camera tightly trained on every tiny expression by Elle Fanning, who gives a stunning performance as Ginger -- a teen put through belief-quaking emotional changes in a threadbare 1962 London.
Ginger and her wild-child best pal Rosa (Alice Englert) were born on the same day in 1945. Seventeen years later, they're casting about for identities in a world shaken by pop-culture shifts and the ever-present fear of atomic doom.
Potter does delicate work capturing the way Ginger and Rosa hover between child- and adulthood, the way they try on grown-up behavior like they're playing dress-up -- clutching teddy bears (and each other) and playing patty-cake between bouts of smoking, drinking, hitchhiking and the occasional bus-stop snog.
The teens are also rebelling in an effort to avoid the fates of their unhappy mothers. Ginger's mother (Christina Hendricks) gave up everything in a bid for domestic normalcy, but now she's fighting against the word-twisting of Ginger's father (Alessandro Nivola) -- a self-centered intellectual who behaves horribly while hiding behind his "free spirit" ideals.
Ginger -- her head full of her father's exhortations to be "an activist, not a supplicant" -- gets caught in the middle. The threat of intimate and global catastrophe tests her belief system -- even as Potter pushes closer to capture every quiver on Fanning's face.
It's not particularly subtle, especially toward the end. But it's quietly psychologically brutal -- and the solid-to-devastating performances by Fanning, Englert, Hendricks, Nivola, Annette Bening, Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt make the movie.
Potter takes a hard look at the tension between the personal and the political -- at the way you can lose yourself worrying about an imagined apocalypse while a very real one is happening to the humans you love, at the way basic human desires for freedom and love get twisted up in activism and compromise. And Potter is merciless about the harm men can do to those closest to them while those men are railing against "mindless obedience" and "the rules."
(89 min.; rated PG-13 for mature disturbing thematic material involving teen choices -- sexuality, drinking, smoking, and for language; playing in Portland at Regal Fox Tower) Grade: A-minus
'Ginger & Rosa' (The Oregonian, Friday, March 29, 2013)