Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 15, 2017)
As implied by its title, 2017ís 3 Generations takes on a broad scope related to its subjects. Born a female, 16-year-old Ray (Elle Fanning) identifies as a male and has lived that way for years.
Now that heís older, Ray wants to make this more ďformalĒ and he plans to undergo treatment for full gender reassignment. Due to his underage status, Ray needs signed permission from both parents, so his mother Maggie (Naomi Watts) takes on a quest to locate biological father Craig (Tate Donovan).
All that and a lesbian grandmother (Susan Sarandon) who needs to come with terms with the fact her granddaughter now will be her grandson! Generations comes with a lot of plot threads, any one of which couldíve formed a full narrative in its own right.
Honestly, that approach wouldíve made more sense, as the film we get seems scattered and unsatisfying. Generations wants to pack so many elements and developments into its 92 minutes that it canít remotely hope to adequately service all of them.
As it happens, the movie canít manage to explore any of its domains, so all three topics get the short shrift. Actually, Generations really only digs into 2.5 subjects, as it doesnít spend a whole lot of time with Grandma Dolly Ė she acts more as subtext than as a main plot domain.
Even if we stick with just the Ray and Maggie stories, though, Generations canít deliver a satisfying character drama. Again, it simply spreads itself too thin and never establishes any form of consistency.
If forced to pick an overall theme, itíd be about how females support each other, but even that fails to emerge as a concise thread. Generations tosses out vague stabs in that direction but it doesnít coalesce into anything meaningful.
Which leaves Generations as a mess of plot threads in search of direction. It gives us elements connected to the struggles of a single mother and the issues with being a transgendered teen and general ďcoming of ageĒ topics and more.
Again, any of these couldíve constituted a reasonably solid movie, so the inclusion of so many narrative domains feels desperate. 3 Generations includes a very good cast, but they canít bring life to their flat characters, so this ends up as a mediocre flop of a drama.