Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) have been friends from birth, but the choices they make as teenagers threaten to tear them apart.
Set against the backdrop of the fear of nuclear war, Ginger & Rosa tells the story of two young girls whose friendship is threatened by paranoia and promiscuity. Elle Fanning creates a mature yet innocent and vulnerable character in Ginger, and it is this mix, combined with the feeling that this character is straddling childhood and adulthood and her portrayal of emotional pain that almost manifests as physical that makes this one of Elle Fanning’s best performances to date. Alice Englert’s Rosa the foil to Fanning’s Ginger. Rosa is selfish and as naïve as her friend, albeit in a totally different manner. As the film progresses, Englert moves from confidant to a parental role, and this only serves to add to Ginger’s fear and paranoia.
Poor old Christina Hendricks is absolutely constrained by her attempts to deliver dialogue in an English accent. The accent becomes the focal point of her performance, and it jars the audience out of the world of the film. Alessandro Nivola fares better as Ginger’s father Roland and thankfully, Annette Bening and Oliver Platt’s yuppie hippies are played as American, so there ends the woeful array of accents in the film.
It appears as though Ginger & Rosa is Sally Potter’s attempt to portray fear and paranoia in a manner similar to Take Shelter, but where Jeff Nichols succeeded, Potter fails. Instead of the film creating a suffocating atmosphere, Ginger’s paranoia feels to the audience like teenage angst for the sake of angst. We know well that nuclear war was avoided, even though the CND did not succeed in their mission, so immediately we know that Ginger’s fears are unfounded. This immediately creates a barrier between the audience and the character, and the choices that Ginger makes do nothing to allow the audience to warm to her. The final revelation of the film feels like melodrama for the sake of it, and why every character in the film had to be present for Ginger’s breakdown is unclear. Said breakdown is obviously meant to be that a character cracking under strain, instead it feels as though Ginger is having a whinge, and the adults in her life are indulging her.
Sally Potter has made only a handful of films in the past 20 years, but Ginger & Rosa is not her triumphant return to screen, it is 90 minutes of watching a selfish teenager, and the selfish people around her, indulge her whims and act surprised when she cannot deal with the horrible realities of life. Elle Fanning is quickly becoming an actress to keep an eye on – and this is a strong physical and emotional performance from her for the most part – but she is not enough to carry the film. What should be charming comes off as whingy and the excitement at a new era of history and culture is completely lost.