A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017)

Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf in lady Bird
Lady Bird McPherson: Saoirse Ronan
Marion McPherson: Laurie Metcalf
Larry McPherson: Tracy Letts
Danny O'Neill: Lucas Hedges
Kyle Scheible: Timothée Chalamet
Beanie Feldstein: Julie Stefans
Sister Sarah Joan: Lois Smith
Father Leviatch: Stephen Henderson
Jenna Walton: Odeya Rush
Miguel McPherson: Jordan Rodrigues
Shelly Yuhan: Marielle Scott

Director: Greta Gerwig
Screenplay: Greta Gerwig
Cinematography: Sam Levy
Production design: Chris Jones
Film editing: Nick Houy
Music: Jon Brion

Maybe it's not the "female 400 Blows" that Greta Gerwig reportedly wanted to make, but it'll do until that comes along. We could only hope that Gerwig has something like François Truffaut's "Antoine Doinel cycle" in the works. It doesn't have to be the "Lady Bird McPherson" cycle, either, but just more sensitive, intelligent films about family and environment, capturing the essence that she caught of growing up in Sacramento. And I hope that if she does, she'll find more roles for the wonderful Laurie Metcalf, whose nuanced performance as Lady Bird's hard-working, hard-bitten mother, skeptical of anything that smacks of overreaching one's station in life, to my mind easily outshadows the performance that beat it for the supporting actress Oscar. Not that Allison Janney wasn't terrific in I, Tonya (Craig Gillespie), but her role was one-note when compared with the subtleties that the part of Marion McPherson demanded -- and Metcalf supplied. I also found myself thinking about a movie that stars Gerwig but which she didn't write or direct, Rebecca Miller's Maggie's Plan (2015), and realizing how movie formulas can either sustain or cripple a film that tries to reach beyond them. In Maggie's Plan, Miller tries to make a conventional domestic comedy rise above its conventions, to infuse its sometimes over-familiar comic situations with a bit of poignant realism. She fails because she's not willing to let her characters transcend the situations, to surprise us. Lady Bird is equally formulaic: It's essentially a coming-of-age teen comedy, something we've seen before. But Gerwig and her performers flesh out the characters into something more plausibly real than the genre demands.

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