Ginger and Rosa
Directed by Sally Potter. Starring Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening 15A cert, Cineworld/IFI/ Light House, Dublin, 90 min
MIGHT THE PRESENCE of Christina Hendricks in this superficially gorgeous period piece be intended as a joke? The top- heavy star sails into the action and, simply by being there, causes us to note that, when set beside Sally Potter’s absurdly romantic concoction, Mad Men’s take on the early 1960s seems positively gritty.
We are in Bohemian London during the run-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Teenagers Ginger (a superb, convincingly English Elle Fanning) and Rosa (surly Alice Englert) struggle to cope with surging hormones and impending apocalypse.
Everyone does the sort of things you expect people to do in polished versions of the period. Ginger’s dad, a pacifist lecturer, wears a polo-neck and hangs out with people in box-fresh duffel coats. Oliver Platt and Timothy Spall spread wisdom around as a Ginger’s gay godparents (surely an anachronism, even among beatniks). Dig this, Daddyo! Annette Bening turns up as an unholy amalgam of Dorothy Parker and Princess Margaret.
It must be stressed that the film is a technical marvel. Our own Robbie Ryan, working on a limited budget, creates a lovely autumnal symphony from the too-clean clothes and walls apparently peeled by Jackson Pollock. He is surely established as one of the best cinematographers on the planet. Locations are also used to great effect.
But the end result is so sumptuously idealised that Ginger and Rosa proves impossible to take seriously. Every record player plays Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis or Charlie Parker. A meal of pie and mash looks as if it was prepared for a modern, Michelin-starred irony canteen.
None of this would matter much if the picture had a firmer story or less flimsy characters. But, despite good performances, Ginger and Rosa achieves no more dramatic purchase than the average insurance commercial. “Serving our Customers since 1962!” a legend (doesn’t really) say before moving on to show bell-bottomed teenyboppers dancing to Slade.