“Lady Bird” tells the story of a smart, strong-willed high school senior coming of age, branding herself with an oddball avian-inspired moniker as she struggles to wing her way out of claustrophobic 2002 Sacramento.
But “Lady Bird” is more than just a nickname, and the character, created by writer-director Greta Gerwig and embodied by Saorise Ronan, is far more than just a symbol. The film soars on the teen’s buoyant, bittersweet and relatable declaration of identity and independence amid an uncertain future.
Parallels among film, filmmaker and the current climate were underscored Tuesday as Gerwig became only the fifth woman in Academy Awards history nominated for Best Director – and, perhaps more significantly, the first in the Time’s Up/#MeToo era. The movie, which resounded with many, now speaks, in a sense, to the spirit of a growing movement that’s traveled from Hollywood to Washington and beyond.
That may be too much to put on first-time director Gerwig and her modestly budgeted breakout film, which also garnered Oscar nods for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay (Gerwig), Best Actress (Ronan) and Best Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf). But “Lady Bird”, for all her insecurities and teenage foibles, possesses a deep, inner strength.
The film landed in theaters in November, about a month after The New York Times and The New Yorker detailed numerous allegations of sexual harassment and assault against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. The allegations, which Weinstein denied, unleashed a flood of accusations against powerful men, including many entertainment and media world figures.
Signs of the reckoning can be seen everywhere from the Hollywood women who dressed in black at the Golden Globes to the Time’s Up and #MeToo campaigns to the hundreds of thousands of women who took the streets this past weekend. The protests came a year after the inauguration of President Trump, who was once caught on tape bragging about accosting women, spurred the worldwide Women’s March.
It’s a good bet that “Lady Bird”, who would be in her early 30s now, would have been among the crowd in both years, no doubt waving a clever sign.
That’s one takeaway from Gerwig’s film, which (mild spoiler alert) ends on a note bound to ring with hope for anyone who supports the quickly expanding and evolving women’s movement: Even if life is uncertain, it’s rife with possibility. And it’s only just beginning.
Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of “Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family.” Follow him on Twitter.
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