Ger­wig has ar­rived as a direc­tor af­ter one film

‘Plain and lus­cious’ mantra serv­ing Lady Bird well

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - Movies -

Greta Ger­wig has been an ac­tress in 25 films, a co-writer on five and co-direc­tor of one. She’s as­sem­bled wardrobes, done makeup and, thanks to her height, held the boom mike. She has, in a sense, been build­ing up for a long time to her di­rec­to­rial de­but: Lady Bird.

“I was ac­cu­mu­lat­ing my 10,000 hours,” said Ger­wig, who stands five-foot-nine. “When I fin­ished this script, I thought: You’re still go­ing to learn things but you’re not go­ing to learn any­thing more by not do­ing it. What­ever learn­ing hap­pens now is go­ing to hap­pen by do­ing it. I just de­cided to take the leap.”

It’s at this mo­ment while con­tem­plat­ing the cul­mi­na­tion of her pro­fes­sional life that a fam­ished Ger­wig first spies her lunch. “Oh my good­ness it’s a sammy,” she ex­claims — a rev­e­la­tion quickly fol­lowed by an­other. “Oh my feet are so dirty from stand­ing out­side bare­foot.”

For Ger­wig, it comes nat­u­ral that the most earnest in­ner am- bi­tions can ap­pear, from the out­side, a lit­tle funny, too.

Ger­wig’s Lady Bird, which opened last week in New York and Los Angeles, is a loosely au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal com­ing-ofage story about a high-schooler named Chris­tine (Saoirse Ro­nan) with the self-pro­claimed nick­name “Lady Bird” who as­pires beyond her mid­dle-class Sacra­mento life. From Catholic school, she dreams of New York or at least “Con­necti­cut or New Hamp­shire, where writ­ers live in the woods.”

The film — richly de­tailed, shrewdly ob­served, al­to­gether a beauty — has al­ready found some of the best re­views of the year, plac­ing it among the early awardssea­son favourites. It boasts nu­mer­ous rev­e­la­tions — in­clud­ing the per­for­mances by Ro­nan and her fic­tional mother Lau­rie Met­calf — but none more so than this one: Ger­wig is an ex­cep­tional, fully formed film­maker, right out of the gate.

“She nailed it in the way that she did be­cause she’s in­cred­i­bly open to peo­ple and char­ac­ters and places,” says Ro­nan. “One of the rea­sons why she’s such a fan­tas­tic sto­ry­teller is be­cause she’s in­cred­i­bly sin­cere. Ev­ery­thing that comes out of her, whether it’s on the page or when she acts or when she di­rects, it only comes from the most gen­uine place.”

Why is it that Ger­wig, at 34, has made the leap to di­rect­ing so flaw­lessly? It could be that she was a writer from the start. Her most re­cent scripts were Frances Ha (2013) and Mis­tress Amer­ica, both co-writ­ten with Noah Baum­bach, with whom Ger­wig has been in a re­la­tion­ship for sev­eral years. Even her act­ing — si­mul­ta­ne­ously nat­u­ral and self-aware — has, as Baum­bach has said, car­ried with it some­thing “au­tho­rial.”

Ger­wig is also a proud cinephile. Claire De­nis’s Beau Tra­vail first awak­ened her to cin­ema as some­thing more than the­atre on film. Dur­ing pro­duc­tion on Lady Bird, her email was over­run with screen grabs she snapped of rel­e­vant films. A sam­pling of inspirations: the low-key nat­u­ral­ism of Mike Leigh, Agnes Varda’s Cleo From 5 to 7, Eric Rohmer’s block­ing, Howard Hawks’ di­a­logue, Amer­i­can Graf­fiti (shot in nearby Stock­ton, Calif.), Chan­tal Ak­er­man’s rendering of a woman do­ing house work in Jeanne Diel­man.

“Plain­ness with a pur­pose never gets re­warded the way it should,” she says. “Our catch phrase for the way the film looked was: ‘Plain and lus­cious.’”

A short de­scrip­tion of Lady Bird tends to un­der­sell it. While it has the ba­sic frame­work of a teenage high school film, Lady Bird’s story — one of the bit­ter­sweet thrill of fum­bling to­ward a much-yearned-for fu­ture — isn’t told in iso­la­tion. Her re­la­tion­ship with her mom, an over­worked nurse, is strained. “To me,” she says, “that was al­ways the cen­tral love story of the film.”

“The movie is a bit of a Tro­jan horse, in a way,” says Ger­wig. “Around the mid­dle, it catches and you kind of re­al­ize there’s some­thing very aching and sad at the core of it even though it’s funny and fast-paced.

“I’ve al­ways dis­liked the com­ing-of-age ti­tle given to it. Ev­ery com­ing-of-age story in life is equally the story about the par­ent, the per­son who’s let­ting go. It’s se­cretly as much the mother’s movie as much as it’s her movie.”

it catches and you kind of re­al­ize there’s some­thing very aching and sad at the core of it. Greta Ger­wig

Con­trib­uted

Lady­bird, di­rected by Greta Ger­wig, has gar­nered some of the best re­views of the year.

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