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Ginger and Rosa: No Sugar, Some Spice

Two young girls are transfixed by a new, dark stranger on their London doorstep: a growing threat of nuclear war.

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Born beside each other in a World War II-era London hospital, Ginger and Rosa are kindred spirits of body and soul--an inseparable pair of risk-takers who grow into their skin by pushing life's envelope as the world around them pushes its way toward a nuclear age.

Ginger and Rosa--which solidifies Elle Fanning's claim on star-in-the-making status with her portrayal of Ginger--is not to be missed.

Shortly after introducing us to the pair at birth, Ginger and Rosa rushes to 1962--the year of Bernstein, Steinbeck, Kennedy and Khrushchev. But soon enough, 1963 will become the year of John, Paul, George and Ringo. So it is with some romanticism that audiences can look back on Ginger and Rosa's 1962 with perfect hindsight, accepting how fragile that time was.

London, still dusting a world war from its doorstep, seems dingy but charming. Its innocence is clearly a distant memory but we all know that its future holds even greater jeopardy.

Between their "illicit" passages of kissing, hitchhiking and smoking their first cigarettes, Ginger and Rosa are transfixed by a new, dark stranger on their London doorsteps: a growing threat of nuclear war, pronounced with great urgency at the city's Ban the Bomb rallies and protests.

Ginger--all fire-engine-red hair and restlessness--is anxious to embrace the romanticism of political dissent, and equally anxious to please her pacifist father Roland (Alessandro Nivola), who was shunned by peers for being a conscientious objector during World War II.

"That's my girl," says Roland. "You're an activist, not a supplicant."

Meanwhile, chestnut-haired, smouldering Rosa (an equally fine Alice Englert) cares less about the bomb than the earth-moving experience of bad boys and tobacco. Between Ginger and Rosa, rebellion is in full rage.

The film is a fully realized memory play, joining a short list of other brave films that consider the mystery of dangerous companions: 1994's Heavenly Creatures, 1998's Hilary and Jackie, and 1999's Brokedown Palace.

Ginger and Rosa offers a basketful of fine supporting performances from Annette Bening, Oliver Platt, Timothy Spall and Idaho native Christina Hendricks as Ginger's mother, Natalie, who abandoned her own dreams of being an artist for a frustrated life of domesticity. For those, like me, who can't get enough of Hendricks, she returns as Joan Harris, Sunday, April 7, in the seventh season of AMC's Mad Men.

But Ginger and Rosa is Fanning's star-turn. No longer simply Dakota's younger sister, it's impressive to find out that Elle was only 13 when principal filming began. She expertly executes the fragility of being 16, and her performance is never self-absorbed. Her Ginger gives the film full composition and conscience.

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Ginger & Rosa

Official Site: gingerandrosa.com

Director: Sally Potter

Producer: Christopher Sheppard, Reno Antoniades, Aaron Gilbert, Goetz Grossman, Heidi Levitt, Joe Oppenheimer and Paula Vaccaro

Cast: Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Jodhi May, Annette Bening, Andrew Hawley and Oliver Milburn

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