Not Fourteen Again

on August 01, 2008 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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  &#160In 1976, Australian director Gillian Armstrong ("Little Women") began a series of films following the lives of three young Aussie girls. "Smokes and Lollies" profiled them at age 14, "Fourteen's Good, Eighteen's Better" arrived four years later and "Bingo, Bridesmaids and Braces" came in 1988, when the three were 26. "Not Fourteen Again" is the latest installment of the series that examines Kerry, Diana and Josie, now 34 and with children of their own, two of whom are 14-year-old girls. Fortuitously, that fact allows Armstrong to repeat to her subjects' daughters some of the same questions she'd asked before.
  &#160By duplicating much of the format of Michael Apted's fine "Up" series of documentaries, Armstrong forces comparisons. Unfortunately, she doesn't benefit by them. Besides its gender difference, "Not Fourteen Again" does offer a different social portrait of Australia than Apted's film do of England. All three women have been divorced, two of them more than once, and they seem a lot more dissatisfied with their lives and opportunities than Apted's British counterparts. But "Not Fourteen Again" is more diffuse than Apted's films. Though Apted deals with a dozen subjects, he does a better job of delineating them than does Armstrong, who can't seem to make her three subjects stand out from one another.
  &#160Some of "Not Fourteen Again" is substantial. Conversations with the new generation of girls is compelling because they seem less preoccupied with staying within defined gender roles. On the other hand, their obsessive concerns about their looks and weight show that little has changed in that area. At film's end, Armstrong suggests she will return in a few years for another go-round with her women. Despite this film's flaws, that's a welcome prospect. Directed and written by Gillian Armstrong. Produced by Jenny Day and Gillian Armstrong. No distributor set. Documentary. Not yet rated. Running time: 108 min. Screened at the Montreal fest.
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