Two Cents Feels Emotional as We Drive Through Sacramento with LADY BIRD

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

Not too long ago, Greta Gerwig was being spoken of as a muse for a new generation of independent cinema, and as a potential mainstream star in movies where she would smile at lovable scamps played by Russell Brand and etc. as she taught them how to be better people so they might win her as a prize.

But Gerwig quickly proved that she was uninterested in being relegated to other people’s dream girl. As a screenwriter, she collaborated with Noah Baumbach on acclaimed films like Frances Ha and Mistress America (in which she also starred), and for her directorial debut she took the world by storm with last year’s Lady Bird.

Set in 2002–2003, Lady Bird follows young Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan, Oscar-nominated) through her senior year of high school in Sacremento, California, charting the ups and downs in her quest for college and her relationships with her best friend (Beanie Feldstein), with boys (including Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet [Oscar-nominated that year, but not for this role, for the one where he puts his dick in a peach), with her father (Tracy Letts), and, most importantly, with her combative but loving mother (Laurie Metcalf, Oscar-nominated).

Characters in the film often don’t know what to make of Lady Bird, but Lady Bird was rapturously received and became distributor A24’s highest grossing film (by a margin of about $50 million), and an award season mainstay.

Gerwig has stated that she plans to make an entire trilogy of films about life in Sacramento, so, while we wait for those, we thought it might be fun to sink back into the hazy, floating memory that is Lady Bird.

Next Week’s Pick:

In theaters right now is a film in which someone with the surname of “Ocean” assembles an elite team of fellow thieves to rob jerks blind and look great while doing it. And so, all is right with the world.

Heist movies are something of a specialty for Ocean’s 8 producer Steven Soderbergh. As a director, Soderbergh helmed the original Ocean’s 11 trilogy, of which 8 is a delightful spin-off. And just last summer, Soderbergh returned from brief, self-imposed directorial exile (give or take a couple seasons of a TV show) with next week’s pick, Logan Lucky.

Logan Lucky follows down-on-his-luck good ol’ boy Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) as he rallies his brother (Adam Driver), sister (Riley Keough), and demolition genius Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to help him rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the biggest NASCAR race of the year.

Logan Lucky is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review on any MCU film to twocents(at) anytime before midnight on Thursday!

Our Guests

Carly Booth:

One thing that really stuck out to me in Lady Bird were all the characters. They were all so refreshingly real. Greta Gerwig really captures all those little intricacies about people you encounter in high school and with parent-child relationships during that stage of life (leaving high school, going to college). There were moments in that movie that I remember happening in my own life, especially regarding a few spats with my mother at that age. I remember wanting to go to college far away and fighting with her about it every day. I did end up going far away but transferring two years later because man did it suck.

While we’re on the subject, I had such an immediate and intense hatred for Kyle, Timothée Chalamet’s character. He reminded me so much of my own high school nemesis and had so many similar mannerisms, that every time he opened his mouth I wanted to give him an uppercut. I like that actor, but wow… he plays a smarmy, pompous little twat with such aplomb. I guess such a visceral reaction to a character like that is just a testament to how well the characters are written.

Kyle was my most hated character of an Oscar contender movie last year until I saw The Shape of Water the following month, because while Kyle is a douchebag who lied to Lady Bird about being a virgin, at least he never tortured a magical sea monster for poops and giggles. If that intense hatred holds up when I rewatch Lady Bird, I’ll let you know.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, unlike Lady Bird, I did not lose my virginity to my high school nemesis because, well, I found him repulsive. (@Carly_Booth8)

Brendan Agnew (The Norman Nerd):

Lady Bird has maybe the best editing of any film this century apart from Mad Max: Fury Road.

Oh yeah, bring on the air horns because I’m dead serious.

Eighty-nine minutes. That’s how long it takes for this film to go from opening titles to rolling credits, and during that time, writer/director Greta Gerwig and editor Nick Houy craft an experience that flows through a year in the life of the titular high schooler that feels full and lived in and wholly relatable while also keeping an insanely brisk pace and never feeling obvious about marking time with “now we’re in *this* part of the year” choices.

The film’s opening scene has a smash cut for the ages, and Gerwig and Houy continue to demonstrate economy, pacing, and a confidence in their actors to communicate through nonverbal cues and body language (or even props). The film exists in the space between a slice of life indie and slick montage-heavy filmmaking, with music used to set a mood in one scene before cutting to the next where it’s revealed to be diagetic, or clever matching transitions like the lead-in to the anti-abortion assembly (which is easily the meanest Lady Bird — the character and the film — gets, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t laugh anyway). It captures the feeling of teenage years being both full of towering passions and explosive conflict, but also the reality of life being equally full of unexplained absences and the mundane fading of relationships.

I could keep going about how the film folds multiple memorable characters with defined arcs into the background of a story largely about two very strong-willed women, or the deft hand that Gerwig uses when switching between medium/wide shots and punctuated close-ups allow her to dance along the line between intimate drama and broad visual comedy, but…I’ve got a phone call I should make. (@BLCAgnew)

The Team

Justin Harlan:

I’ll be honest. I know it’s a really well made movie, especially for a debut. I enjoyed it, for that matter. However, it didn’t leave an impression on me.

To be fair, I’m not really the target audience and I expect it resonated much more with many other filmgoers. Moreover, I appreciate a good amount about it and I am always happy to see strong new female voices in the film world.

In short, solid film even if it’s not totally my thing. I am excited to see what comes next, too! (@thepaintedman)

Brendan Foley:

I’ve written at length about why Lady Bird is such a deeply meaningful film to me, both HERE and in various ramblings on Twitter when I get…emotional, let us say. Most of the folks in the column this week have spoken to the numerous ways in which Lady Bird is an expertly put-together and highly entertaining film.

What I just wanted to highlight for my own bit was the way the film took me completely by surprise. In 2017, there were plenty of movies that I was hyped to see for months, if not years, in advance, as the massive infrastructure surrounding blockbuster films makes sure you have a long lead time to anticipate each fresh batch of sequels and new installments. I went in to films like Guardians Vol. 2 or Spider-Man: Homecoming primed and ready to love them. Hell, in a way, I knew enough going in to movies like that to know that I was going to love them. It would’ve taken real effort for them to have failed.

Lady Bird, though, I saw with virtually no idea what it was about. I think I had seen a trailer, maybe. But basically what it came down to was being bored on a weeknight, feeling like going to the movies, and recognizing the title as something that some folks in my Twitter feed were euphoric about a few weeks beforehand. 90 minutes later, I came dancing out of the cinema, immediately texting my brother to tell him that whenever he was around next there was a movie he had to see.

I love that feeling, that moment when a movie comes out of nowhere to blindside you and claim previously-unclaimed real estate in your heart. That’s the pure, uncut high that I think we all chase as movie lovers, but it’s harder and harder to attain as you get older, especially in the current cultural climate where it feels like movies are completely digested before they even hit theaters (I feel like I’ve already consumed the new Jurassic World, for example, and it’s not out yet). Lady Bird is a reminder that you never know when something new might bowl you over, and that your next favorite film/book/show/game/whatever could be anything, made by anyone. If you had told me at the start of 2017, a year that featured new films about Spider-Man, Thor, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Wonder Woman, the rest of the Justice League, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, plus new features from Jordan Peele, Guillermo del Toro, Chris Nolan, and Steven Soderbergh,that out of all of that the film I would love the most would be the one about a teenage girl in Sacramento dealing with her mom, well, I just never would have believed you. But movies are magic, man, and this one especially has magic to spare.(@theTrueBrendanF)

Austin Vashaw:

When director Greta Gerwig was up for the Best Director Academy Award for Lady Bird, her face lit up with delight as competitor Guillermo del Toro was announced as the winner. I’m not very familiar with her work but this display of character raised both the director and her film on my radar immediately.

Lady Bird certainly bears the mark of such a genuine soul. The crude general beats of the story sounded like something that I’d find abrasive or uncomfortable — a high school senior fights with her mother, resents her Catholic school, and loses her virginity to her douchebag boyfriend. But the handling is not some exploitative or mean-spirited glamorization of rebelliousness. Sensitive and real, we follow the struggles of a confused girl who is trying to find herself in a world where her dreams and reality don’t seem to ever intersect.

Populating Lady Bird’s world are a number of side characters who are similarly infused with depth and emotion — a best friend with a crush on her handsome teacher. Her parents who struggle to barely get by financially. A closeted boy who grapples with being gay. A lovable drama instructor who harbors some unknowable hidden heartache. Lady Bird doesn’t tell a story so much as invite you into the world of these characters for awhile and let you participate in their humanity. (@VforVashaw)

Watch it on Amazon Prime:

Next week’s pick:

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