A “Lady Bird” in the Hand…is Worth 3 in the Oscars

Lady Bird, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, has nested three more nominations for my Academy Award picks: Gerwig for best original screenplay, Laurie Metcalf for best supporting actress and Saoirse Ronan for best actress. I say nominations obviously because the film season is just getting warmed up.

Great attributes of Lady Bird are many. First, a super sharp dialogue and a realistic plot. Most women will relate to the mother daughter struggle that is beautifully portrayed between Metcalf and Ronan. I love Laurie Metcalf and was fortunate enough to see her in New York City play opposite Jeff Goldblum in “Domesticated”. She has the perfect timing to play dramatic, with a pinch of ironic humor. Ronan had me at Brooklyn, a corny epic that I should have groaned at, but instead bought in hook line and sinker. Here in Lady Bird, she is unrecognizable, meaning a genius at owning the part of a senior straining to get the hell away from her family of origin.

And now let’s talk about Greta Gerwig…and what’s weirdly coincidental is that right now as I simultaneously listen to Greta’s Fresh Air interview, where God Bless her, Terry Gross, is asking pointed questions regarding men with whom Greta has worked. And may I just muddy my review further by an error of Terry’s: she is saying that Ronan Farrow has stood by his step sister’s abuse claims, when I read that he’s quite the contrarily said he believes his mother, Mia, coached her daughter to make these allegations.

I can appreciate Greta Gerwig, though I am skeptical about her kindness, from her relationship with Noah Baumbach which probably is more about my projecting the past rejection I can’t get rid myself of by Mr. Saturday Night, the smart, sporty Jewish man who doesn’t seem to miss me. This isn’t immaturity, just honesty. Check yourself right now in the figurative mirror and tell me there isn’t some former romantic pain still in your heart. If you can claim freedom, God Bless you or perhaps, you don’t pass the “I’m Not a Robot” test(smiley face).

Anyway, when reviewing the movie Good Time with Jennifer Jason Leigh, I keyed into the fact that Greta and Noah fell in love on the set of Margot at the Wedding, a movie they did with then Baumbach wife JJ Leigh. I feel for JJL, what can I say? And while I loved Greta’s role in Greenberg and Frances Ha (which she also wrote), I thought she was terrible (or was it the writing?) in Maggie’s Plan. No matter, she is a great writer and a competent director, so here here to that!

The entire cast was just incredible, let me count the ways:

The men: Tracy Letts, plays an excellent detached dad, but I’m rooting for an even bigger acting comeback after the horrrrrrrrrrible movie he did called The Lovers. Lucas Hedges, while a genius in Manchester By the Sea, seemed to be overacting in a few scenes as the anguished Catholic school student. Timothee Chalamet was perfect as the Jack Kerouacesque boy toy.

A notable pair who play Lady Bird’s brother and sister-in’law were Jordan Rodrigues and Marielle Scott, fantastic as the dull-eyed underachievers who post college still reside at home.

Other notable females were: Beanie Feldstein and Odeya Rush who couldn’t be more genuine as the (heavy sweet and slutty worldly) Catholic gals respectively.

And now I’ll listen to the remainder of the Gerwig interview and see how she squirms under the question of ‘how do you feel about working with men accused of sexual harassment?’. I’ll be sure to postscript any interesting tidbits. Until then, I root for Gerwig, Metcalf and Ronan at the Academy Awards!

Postscript tidbit: Greta turned the tables and make Terry answer the question, too, so both woemn, in so many words, said or didn’t say how I feel, and that is I think we can appreciate a person’s talent, and yet be disappointed in some f their behavior. Bravo Gerwig (and Gross), I respect you.

Maggie’s Plan, Nothing Novel

Maggie’s Plan (written and directed by Rebecca Miller) was nothing novel, though the film did have a few highlights.
Let’s get the disappointment out of the way first. Actually, no, let me change that view to optimism since I could have written this easily (sorry Rebecca). In fact, my screenplay Buck Up has more laughs and wittier dialogue, covering roughly the same territory. So given the right eyes and ears, even I could be a screenwriter. But wait, I just remembered, my dad wasn’t Arthur Miller. Oh, I’m blessed, fear not.

I have enjoyed Greta Gerwig, first seeing and loving her in Greenberg. Here, however, she seemed like marshmallow fluff and when she cries at one point, I felt the emotional pull equivalent of a mannequin crying. Not that she didn’t have any grand moments, in fact, there was a truism I could relate to when she said, “Is it true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and the cactus gets nothing?” Julianne Moore, same story, fake German accent plus histrionic personality equals zero audience empathy.

Bill Hader, should have his romantic comedy license revoked, being a repeat dud offender (first in Trainwreck and now this). Bill is at his best in the humor zone, though I know full well this cold be debated with Skeleton Twins. Chalk it up to quality writing. (Again, sorry Rebecca.)

Ethan Hawke, I’ve already revealed in previous blogs, I’m a sucker for. Even when he seems to be reaching, he’s good. This role possibly strikes closest to home (man who commits affairs and winds up with younger wife and more children) and the pinnacle of the film is his rant at being manipulated. Though watch out Ethan, equally as strong was a minor character, the pickle factory owner Travis Fiimmel. Let me call it now, he’ll win an Academy Award in the next 5 years. Take it to Vegas. He was the most realistic character of the entire film, vulnerable, yet masculine. Someone give this man a role beyond Warcraft (major eye roll).

Mistress America: Am I Rushing or Am I Dragging?

Savvy readers will know that my title is a quote from “Whiplash”, my favorite movie of last year.

I use it because Greta Gerwig (and I consider myself a fan) seemed to be rushing or lines in the opening scenes, like watching out of sync audio, but with her lips moving in time. I think she was going for a strong goofy premise, but what I experienced was free jazz, not palatable.

That being said, I’d say go see Mistress America since you finally get used to Greta’s quirk , and at the risk of showing off my rhyming talent, and Lola Kirke was excellent playing 7 years younger (she’s an elderly 25 in real life). My only quibble with her performance isn’t her, but the personality given to an 18 year old.
Tell me if you agree: Lola aka Hailey, is shocked at the shallowness of Greta, aka Tracy’s ‘Jacklyn of all trades, master of none’. From my witness of real teens and twenty somethings, I think the majority are right there with Tracy, squeamish about career investment (meaning a 40 hour work week spent perfecting a craft with subsequent benefits of roots and routine ). I’m sure there are some deep, self-aware 18 year old college freshmen, but they are most likely white capped woodpeckers.

The New Yorker (generally snooty in film reviews) gushed that a scene or two were Woody Allenesque. I would concur though one scene does not maketh an Annie Hall. I truly enjoyed the film though and perhaps Greta and Noah Baumbach (writing partners and romantic partners) were attempting to rage against what they view is shallow skittish millennials. While the movie doesn’t condemn Tracy, I believe it shines light on the flaws of employment phobia as well as a social comment on materialistically inspired romances.