Sunday, June 11, 2017

A24 A-to-Z: #2. "Ginger & Rosa" (2013)

In case you didn't know, A24 is one of the great purveyors of modern cinema. Since 2013, the studio has found a way to innovate independent cinema by turning each release into an event. As a result, A24 A-to-Z will be an ongoing series that looks at every release from the studio by analyzing its production history, release, criticisms, and any awards attention that it might've received. Join me on a quest to explore the modern heroes of cinema by exploring every hit and miss that comes with that magnificent logo. They may not all be great, but they more than make A24 what it is and what it will hopefully continue to be for ears to come.

Ginger & Rosa
Released: March 15, 2013
Release Number: 2
Directed By: Sally Potter
Written By: Sally Potter
Starring: Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Annette Benning
Plot: A look at the lives of two teenage girls - inseparable friends Ginger and Rosa -- growing up in 1960s London as the Cuban Missile Crisis looms, and the pivotal event that comes to redefine their relationship.
Major Awards: 0

After A24 hit the scene with A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (a film criticized for having style over substance), it was important for them to establish just what kind of film studio they would be. They could easily cater to Hollywood stars doing indie passion projects. They could've gotten by on spectacle in an attempt to be as popular as the fellow indie upstart Annapurna Pictures. There's a lot of mystery that went into the first year of A24, but one thing quickly became clear: they were making movies for audiences that mainstream cinema was leaving behind. While it's true that Charlie Sheen still brought Charles Swan III some bigger buzz, typical audiences wouldn't go for a film that was accused of ripping off Wes Anderson. Even if their sophomore release, director Sally Potter's Ginger & Rosa, wasn't necessarily a departure from a familiar indie drama style, it was the note that was needed to prove just how versatile A24 would plan to be.

The story takes place predominantly in 1962 in England. Potter pulled from personal experiences for the film, explaining just how traumatizing the Cuban Missile Crisis was during the period. The film opens with three atomic blasts, which help to give the sense that the world would be ending. Despite this literally explosive start, the film that followed wasn't about a military coup. It was about a 17-year-old protester named Ginger (Elle Fanning) and her relationship with friend Rosa (Alice Englert). To a large extent, the story is about how the panic of impending doom tore apart their friendship and left them even more uncomfortable. Potter chose this age to reflect the in-between years of women, suggesting that they were growing out of childish ways but not quite old enough to be taken seriously as an adult.

The casting was just as peculiar as the story. According to Potter, she had auditioned around 2,000 girls for the part of Ginger before coming across a video of Fanning. It was a tough decision for the sole fact that Fanning was 12 at the time of casting. Upon flying out to California for an in-person interview, Potter became convinced that she could portray the role perfectly. Potter believed that the role called for Ginger to pull from personal memories, which she believed that Fanning could do even at her young age. Upon casting, Fanning dyed her hair red. Likewise, an assistant to Potter recommended Englert for Rosa following the discovery of a video on YouTube. Considering that the film would be focus on them predominantly, there was concern that they would give good performances. Potter didn't seem to mind, not even considering that Fanning was sister to popular actress Dakota Fanning, or that Englert was daughter to Oscar-nominated director Jane Campion (whom Potter also claims she is mistaken for constantly).

The production took place largely in Kent, England. It was an intimate drama that used several elements of the Cuban Missile Crisis era. Speeches from John F. Kennedy and music by various artists like Little Richard added authenticity to the film. Even then, the moments that mattered were quiet conversations of Ginger's value to protesting the potential nuclear attack. It was also the first scene in Fanning's career where she had to kiss someone. Anyone who was skeptical of Fanning's charisma likely wouldn't notice issues regarding her age, as she confidently held her own against skeptical parents, played by Alessandro Nivola and Christina Hendricks. With often spare sets, the film was a departure from Potter's previous films and saw her attempt to tell a more streamlined and accessible story about female friendship when placed alongside a period as undefined as their transition from child to adult.

The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2012. It went on to play at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where it began to receive positive reviews. The film was released in England that October by the company Artificial Eye. However, A24 picked up the rights to release it in the United States. It went on to obtain an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with many praising Fanning's performance. Despite not receiving much awards traction, it picked up awards from local groups that recognized the work of Potter and her cast. The film would go on to gross $1.6 million at the American box office The film may have not been a spectacular success, but it received positive feedback and out-grossed A24's first and arguably bigger film Charles Swan III. It should also be considered that both Fanning and co-star Annette Benning would work for A24 again in 2016 with 20th Century Women.

While Ginger & Rosa may have faded into obscurity as an A24 release, it marked another promising turn for the studio. It was a female directed and written tale about friendship in time of chaos. With Fanning delivering a great performance that showed just how charismatic her future looked, it was a small success and one that the studio needed. It gave them a reputable start with a quasi-prestige drama. It may be among the least memorable of their Freshman class, but it still presented a stark contrast to what came before, suggesting that it would be impossible to pigeonhole the studio into one style or genre. They were going to do whatever they thought would work. They only continued to test the possibilities as time went on, and nowhere was it truer than the salacious third film from A24: the controversial Spring Breakers.

Up Next: Spring Breakers (2013)

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