Mumblecore darling Greta Gerwig has found herself in a novel situation: her directorial debut Lady Bird has replaced Toy Story 2 (1999) as the best reviewed movie on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s quite an accomplishment for any film but particularly for an indie film, written and directed by a woman about a mother and daughter. Those three elements normally would be the trifecta of overlooked films. Somehow Gerwig has managed to avoid that and that’s most likely a result of her fame as an actor and screenwriter. Let’s face it – more people are going to see a film directed by Gerwing than a film starring Saoirse Ronan. If you liked Lady Bird (and by “liked,” I mean you called your mother promptly afterwards and apologized for being a terrible daughter), read on to learn more about its auteur.
Just like Lady Bird’s titular character, Gerwig was born and raised in Sacramento, Calif., the city of a lot of boring stuff. She also went to Catholic school and found herself in New York acting in small films and writing. Her career took off after she started collaborating with screenwriter/director Noah Baumbach whom she met on the set of his film Greenberg (2010). In it, Gerwig plays Florence, the young love interest to Ben Stiller’s grumpy, midlife crisis-having Roger.
Just two years later, Gerwig received positive reviews for her lead role as Frances Halladay in Frances Ha (2012). Frances is a 20-something aspiring dancer in New York who can’t seem to manage the minutiae of daily life; you know, paying rent, keeping friends or being employed. She’s not incompetent, she’s artistic! Gerwig’s spot-on portrayal will remind you of any young adult whose ambitions didn’t exactly gel with the humdrum of real life. Gerwig co-wrote Frances Ha, as well as Mistress America (2015),with director Baumbach, now her partner. Most recently Gerwig starred alongside Annette Bening and Elle Fanning in 20th Century Women (2016) as Abbie Porter, a feminist and photographer in the ‘70s.
It seems Gerwig’s quirky sensibilities – filmmaker Jay Duplass has called her a “spazzy genius” – shine through not just on film but behind the scenes as well. On the set of Lady Bird, Gerwig had everyone, including herself, wear nametags that also featured a bit of trivia about themselves in order to create community. Smartly, she also refused to let anyone have a cell phone on set so they could be more present. And her letters to Alanis Morissette, Dave Matthews and Justin Timberlake imploring them to let her use their music in the film are as candid and adorable as Gerwig.
Here’s hoping come Oscar time in the future, she gets nominated and becomes the second woman to win a Best Director award.