Sacramento’s turn on the silver screen; Gerwig’s love letter to city breaks down tired genre

“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, is playing in theaters now, and is a must-see for all Sacramentans. | Photo by Bobby Castagna ·

Bobby Castagna
Staff Writer


If you see any movie this holiday season, it should be “Lady Bird.” Heck, if there is any movie you see in the next six months, it should be “Lady Bird,” because the movie takes a fresh spin on the stale genre of teenage drama-comedies.

If you need more convincing, the film is being talked about as a potential Oscar contender, it’s chock full of Sacramento landmarks and it was written and directed by Sacramento-born Greta Gerwig.

“Lady Bird” is Gerwig’s directorial debut, and the film tells the story of Christine McPherson (played by Saoirse Ronan) a teenager with a fierce sense of independence who insists on being called Lady Bird, a name she gave herself. However, the story is about more than just young adults and their goofy adventures. It instead focuses on the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, Marion, (played powerfully by Laurie Metcalf).

The relationship dynamic between Lady Bird and Marion is instantly familiar from the opening scene, as the two argue about college plans. The film, set in 2002, follows Lady Bird through her senior year at a Catholic school in Sacramento, and her dreams of going to college on the East Coast. There, she believes she will find a sense of culture missing from her life escaping her hometown is the only way to fulfill that dream.

Marion, on the other hand, thinks Lady Bird needs to learn some responsibility and to get a grip on reality, because she can’t seem to think about anyone but herself. That much is partially true, as evidenced when Lady Bird ditches her best friend Julianne “Julie” Steffans (played by Beanie Feldstein) for popular girl Jenna Walton (Odeya Rush) to get closer to a new love interest.

Marion has her own struggles, not only those that come with raising a rebellious daughter, but also with making ends meet. As she works hard as a nurse, she is also the sole source of income for the family as they hit hard times. Marion feels that she is cast as the role of villain to Lady Bird because her husband Larry (Tracy Letts) always plays the nice-guy parent. It’s clear that Marion loves her family and feels that she has to make tough choices for all of them.

One of the strengths of the movie is the development of the minor cast of characters. In the background, their struggles come to life to reveal that Lady Bird’s life has an impact on them. This is what I liked most about the movie, the interweaving of the main character’s story with everyone else’s.

While most of the scenes focus on Lady Bird, there are those parts that peek into the lives of the characters around her; their struggles, their hardships. Danny O’Neill (Lucas Hedges) is one such character who struggles with a secret that he can only really share with Lady Bird. That, to me, is something special about “Lady Bird,” that minor characters have their own struggles that aren’t always apparent to the main characters. It’s a choice that feels true to the teenage experience, a time when it’s easy to be self-centered.

Not only did Gerwig direct “Lady Bird,” she also wrote it. While it’s not an autobiography of Gerwig’s life, she has told interviewers that she drew upon her own life. That makes it feel real.

From the dialogue between characters to the acne visible on Ronan’s face, it all feels natural. Gerwig has an eye for the fine details that pinpoint how bizarre it is to be a teenager.

The movie also captures the feel of life in Sacramento, a town which Lady Bird is trying to escape. Gerwig herself was born and raised in Sacramento, just like the main character. Additionally, most of the scenes were filmed in Sacramento, capturing iconic sights such as the Tower Bridge and the Fab 40s, places familiar to anyone who has spent time here. This gives the film an authentic feel that captures the setting of a real hometown that Lady Bird struggles to fly away from.

Gerwig created a unique movie in “Lady Bird.” It presents the characters as real people with realistic dialogue — and unlike every other movie I’ve seen, it captures the feeling of growing up in Sacramento. The novelty of watching it in the Tower Theatre adds greatly to the sense of nostalgia for Sacramento natives when you suddenly see the theater you’re watching the movie in.

So when others are home visiting you or your family this holiday, or you’ve just got some free time and want to unwind, I highly suggest you see “Lady Bird.” You won’t be disappointed.


Lady Bird is going strong at theaters all over Sacramento, including hourly showings at the Tower Theatre. Check your local newspaper for show times.