Greta Gerwig's solo directorial debut Lady Bird opened the first weekend of November, making a big splash as the best limited opener all year making $375,612 in 4 theaters. The box office success comes with critical praise as well, scoring 100% at Rotten Tomatoes. It's a commendable start for Gerwig, who after acting in and co-writing several movies establishes herself as a filmmaker in her own right.
Most people will recognize Greta Gerwig from films like the black & white Frances Ha or screwball comedy Mistress America, both directed by her partner Noah Baumbach, but co-written by her. It's something she gets credited for, but at the same time she'd be called Baumbach's muse. But even before she met him, Gerwig already co-wrote Hannah Takes the Stairs & Nights and Weekends (also co-director) with Joe Swanberg. Showing that writing and directing was always on her path.
Lady Bird presents itself as a coming of age film about Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (wonderfully played by Saoirse Ronan), during her graduation year in her home town of Sacramento. "Do I look like I'm from Sacramento?", she wonders (as we learn she can't wait to get out of the town). To which her mom, played by Laurie Metcalf, simply replies: "You are from Sacramento." Just those brief dialogues immediately set up the complicated relationship between Christine, who insists everyone call her Lady Bird (her given name in the sense that is given to her by herself), and her mother, and the difference with which they view life.
Those seemingly little, but so significant and singular moments in Lady Bird will give you a good sense of just how big of an influence Gerwig has been on films she has previously co-written. Her authentic dialogues, that are injected with witty thoughts and delivered by charmingly detailed characters, show that she's a filmmaker with her own style, who knows exactly what she's doing. She has a great sense of comedy, making the film incredibly funny not by using one-liners, but by having her actors play out the humor of mundane moments. Like Lady Bird's crush, the moody rocker Kyle who takes himself way too serious (Timothee Chalamet), proclaiming that he doesn't believe in money or Lady Bird's best friend Jules (Beanie Feldstein) attempting to flirt with her professor.
There's a specificity and sincerity that lingers all through the movie, that is captured in the softness in which Sacramento is displayed and the richness of the characters that inhabit it. It makes it so that the common genre is explored in a new, interesting way. Now that Greta Gerwig has arrived onto the (indie) scene as a remarkable director, it'll be exciting to see what she does next.
Lady Bird is currently playing in New York and Los Angeles, but will expand to other major cities on November 10 and a nation wide release by Thanksgiving.