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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Woody Allen | Annie Hall

NEEDING THE EGS
by Douglas Messerli

Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman (writers), Woody Allen (director) Annie Hall / 1977

Although Woody Allen had long played himself as a character in his stand-up comedian 
performances, Annie Hall was his first foray into a version of self-representation on screen that would continue throughout the rest of his directing career.
      In this film his self-based character—although Allen has long denied that the film was truly autobiographical—is named Alvy Singer. Alvy is a true “insider” New Yorker (born in Brooklyn who lived as a child under a Coney Island rollercoaster),  who, yet, in his paranoia about being Jewish in a world of gentiles, feels as a permanent “outsider” in the world. Although one might easily perceive 
Annie Hall as a valentine to Manhattan, it is also portrayed as a raucously annoying world of imminent danger, wherein every query such as “Do you,” can be read as a racial baiting of the world “Jew.” People in movie lines pontificate on Bergman, Fellini, and Marshall McLuhan (the real man whom Alvy pulls from behind a nearby poster-board to prove the loud smock behind him is mistaken in his views). And almost everyone he meets talks, endlessly talks. In short, it’s lot the family scenes that Allen portrays in Alvy’s childhood. Indeed, the movie was originally titled Anhedonia, from Greek word meaning the inability to experience joy.
      Yet Alvy, much like Allen, is often attracted to the “other,” something so very different from the world he has embraced. At the center of this film, which was to be devoted simply to the fragments of Alvy’s life, is Annie (perfectly personified by Diane Keaton, whose childhood name was Diane “Annie” Hall, and who had a romantic relationship with Allen), the polar opposite of Alvy. She is an insecure would-be singer, while he writes jokes and does stand-up comedian gigs; she is totally curious and committed to the new, while he is an opinionated pessimist fixated upon death—after all, as a child he has discovered that the universe is forever expanding, and human life is necessarily doomed.
     Most importantly, Annie and her family are near-Wasps whom Alvy imagines see him as a Hassid with Tallas and a tall Russian hat on his head.  The scene in which he dines with Annie’s family, replete with Annie’s Jew-hating “grammy,” her possibly suicidal brother Duane (Christopher Walken)—he confesses that he often has a desire to turn his car into the headlights of passing autos—and an over-inquisitive mother (Colleen Dewhurst), is certainly among one of the film’s best, reminding one a bit of scenes from Allen’s later Hannah and Her Sisters.
      Annie Hall, in its final version, centers upon Alvy’s attempt to comprehend why these two opposites have fallen out of love, but we discover almost immediately that, in fact, they were never truly compatible, he self-centered and determined to keep his space, she far more easy-going and emotionally responsive. Even their costumes, Annie dressed in casually chic male-female attire, he in standard shirt, kakis, and loafers. Is it any wonder that, by film’s end, Annie has drifted off to the antithesis of Alvy’s world, California? Perhaps the only thing these two do share is a fear of
multi-legged creatures, he of lobsters, she of spiders.
     Calling up the major events of their affair and his central character’s two previous marriages, Allen’s work is squarely in the romantic movie genre, lacking great experimentation. Yet he tricks his audience into believing that this work is someone adventurous by throwing in what later will would be described as postmodern tropes such as the scene described above with Marshall McLuhan, schoolroom children standing to announce in what professions they were later employed, direct and sudden questioning of passerbys on the New York streets, split-screens portraying completely different realities, subtitles that express the real fears behind the characters’ everyday dialogue, cross-cuts that break the somewhat realist plotting, and, most importantly, the direct embracement of the audience-goers, which force us to feel that this movie is truly engaging us. Allen also employs the Robert Altman device of introducing real-life celebrities into his film, including McLuhan, Truman Capote, Paul Simon, and others.
      
     And then, the film has the major asset of Diane Keaton, who, if she isn’t truly Annie Hall, is, even today, completely comfortable in embracing that role. While Alvy/Allen is constantly whining, she, in the old-fashioned meaning of the world, is constantly gay, “La-de-da,” being her most common phrase. Clearly the sunshine she has brought into the mostly gray skies of Alvy’s beloved New York not only charms us but warms Allen’s diatribe against life with a kind a golden glow that he would return to in later films such as Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Midnight in Paris, and Café Society.
      And, in the end, it moderates Alvy’s incessant howling with a warmer view of life and love. As one of the women he queries in the street replies to his question about love: “It’s never something you do. That’s how people are. Love fades.”
      Or, as Alvy himself perceives by film’s end:

Alvy Singer: [narrating] After that it got pretty late, and we both had to go, but it was great seeing Annie again. I... I realized what a terrific person she was, and... and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I... I, I thought of that old joke, y'know, the, this... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs.

     Yes, this film too reminds us of just how much Allen, throughout his career, has portrayed himself as a proliferate womanizer, and as a man who used others to get what he wanted, in most cases sexual satisfaction. But history is filled with such sad stories. And the Gods themselves, in nearly every mythology, suffered such desires. I know, given how much women suffered in such pillages, it’s now very difficult to forgive such actions. I do think men have to alter their ways forever. There’s something even slightly slimy about some of Allen’s films, particularly his next, Manhattan. But I think Allen and co-writer Marshall Brickman’s simple admiration for the Keaton character says a lot. If nothing else, this film, dominated by Keaton’s version of “Seems Like Old Times,” demonstrates that Allen, at heart, is a nostalgist, dedicated to a past that perhaps never truly existed, a world which might wash away his innumerable sins.


Los Angeles, January 30, 2018

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Paul Thomas Anderson | Phantom Thread

SLOWING HIM DOWN
by Douglas Messerli

Paul Thomas Anderson (writer and director) Phantom Thread / 2017; I saw this film with Howard Fox on January 17, 2018.

“The Phantom Thread” of Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, does not refer, as some have asserted, to the secret messages the movie’s hero, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) sews into the women’s gowns he creates, but rather to the almost incomprehensible “thread of love” between Reynolds and the young German-born waitress, Alma Elson (Vicky Krieps) who he meets in a provincial British restaurant, and, much-like Shaw’s Pygmalion, he takes home, dresses up, and puts to work in his fashion-house. We never do fully discover what these two see in one another: Alma is a vaguely beautiful, but somewhat clumsy and outspoken woman; while Reynolds is a man dedicated to himself and his routine, unable to tolerate any interruption and set-on-edge by even the sound of Alma buttering her morning toast. Both are somewhat selfish and set in their ways, yet their ways go in very different directions.
      What’s even worse is that Reynolds is a kind of mother’s boy, his life now run by his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), a more complex Miss Danvers (from Hitchcock’s Rebecca), who, at first, is dreadfully jealous of her brother’s new discovery, but gradually begins to appreciate Alma’s ability to learn quickly and her proficiency at fitting, modeling, and helping with the sewing, as well as taking some of the load of caring for Reynolds' temperamental fits. Alma’s very quietude seems, at times, as the perfect antidote for Reynolds’ tirades.
      Of course, this is hardly the first time that Anderson has focused on inexplicable relationships and their personal obsessions: one need only remember the almost homoerotic connections between Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the same director’s The Master, or the similarly strange interconnections between Joaquin Phoenix and the Josh Brolin character in Inherent Vice.  Indeed, one may describe Anderson’s films as focusing on strange relationships that have as much to do with obsession as with love.
     If Alma enters the Woodcock mansion much like the disoriented Rebecca, as a spirited ur-feminist, she soon begins to take over, responding to Reynolds’ sexual lack of attention quite differently from the designer’s previous mistress, even arranging, against Cyril’s advice, a surprise private dinner with him, that she has cooked. True to form, Reynolds explodes in anger, simply over the fact that she has cooked asparagus and served it with butter; he prefers oil. And, it soon appears, that she will also be asked by Cyril to leave the relationship like Alma’s predecessor.
      The film begins with Alma recounting her experiences with Reynolds to an unknown individual, and within that context we hear her describing that it had become necessary to “slow him down,” to help him to realize that he, in fact, was truly dependent upon her, not the other way around.
     
      Her solution, hinted at very early in the narrative, is to feed him a ground-up mixture of poisonous mushrooms, which makes him terribly ill, after which she watches over him, gently ministering to a temporarily helpless tyrant. Although Cyril demands a doctor, even the sick patient demands that the doctor “fuck off.” Mother’s boy that he is, Reynolds, quite obviously, prefers the care of a woman who almost selflessly watches over him, a chair pulled up to his bed, while below an army of sewers seek to correct the damage he has done to a princess' wedding gown.  
     He recovers, suddenly realizing that he wants to marry Alma, or, at least, have her care for him for the rest of his life. The two marry, but almost immediately begin to fight again, as who we might perceive as an almost gay-man realizes he has made a terrible mistake, much like Henry Higgins has in inviting Eliza Higgins into his world in Pygmalion. And as the failures of their relationship escalate, Reynolds turns to Cyril to plead that she help him “get rid” of his mistake, again reminding us of another intense mother-son relationship, that of Alex Sebastian and his dominating mother in Hitchcock’s Notorious.
     By this time, however, Cyril has grown quite fond of her Rebecca, and refuses to dismiss Alma or to help her tortured brother. And overhearing this discussion, Alma determines it is again time to “slow him down,” mixing up an even more potent mixture of the dangerous mushrooms in an omelette. Calmly she places the plate before him, but we realize that Reynolds has observed her actions and knows precisely what she is up to. Nonetheless, he bites into the egg dish, carefully chewing up the mixture, as, finally, Alma admits to what she desires: for him to need her caring for him once again. This “outsider” has most definitely become the “insider” in this house. As she tartly tells the legendary Belgian princess , who has previously shunned her: “I live in this house.”
     He too, finally, recognizes his child-like needs, kissing her before he falls deeply ill. Demanding she call the same doctor, just in case he is more poisoned that she imagines; she agrees, and by film’s end we discover that the story she has been telling throughout the work is a kind of confession to the young doctor, himself a man who has been highly attracted to her.
     The final scene of the film, right out of Gigi, shows the happy couple strolling down the avenue with a baby carriage, which they briefly pass off to Cyril, while they joyfully walk off for a stroll, the previously reluctant bachelor having now been trapped into a heterosexual paradise. Surely they will live more happily together than Albee’s George and Martha.


Los Angeles, January 28, 2018

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Steven Spielberg | The Post

THE AWAKENING
by Douglas Messerli

Liz Hannah and Josh Singer (screenplay), Steven Spielberg (director) The Post / 2017

















Steven Spielberg’s 2017 film, The Post, had to be made this year, and was an almost inevitable product in a time when our current President is threatening journalists and other sources with erasement of free speech almost daily.
     The result of this rather quickly made film (it began shooting on May 30th, and was in the theaters by late December) is a well-made and engaging work, with superior acting across the board, surely a sign of Spielberg’s remarkable artistry, although he’s never been a favorite director of mine. Nor, as anyone who has followed my writing must perceive, has actress Meryl Streep been (who I have often criticized for disappearing into her roles), or Tom Hanks (who I feel is often a kind of lumbering giant of good intentions without deep depth); yet both here served wonderfully in their roles, bringing subtlety and true complexity to the figures they portray, The Washington Post leader, Katherine Graham and the newspaper’s famous editor, Ben Bradlee. I guess I still think Jason Robards, Jr. in All the President’s Men, is more convincing in the role, but then he is the greater actor. Hanks does a more than commendable job, downplaying his do-gooder behavior. And I don’t think anyone could have better captured Katherine Graham, known by all in those days, as “Mrs. Graham,” socialite heir from a father and husband who had headed that paper until her husband committed suicide.
     The story of this film, on its surface, is about how The Washington Post, undergoing an amazing change from paternalistically private to public financial support, jumped on the Daniel Ellsberg (played here by Matthew Rhys) release of the stolen Pentagon Papers, which detailed from the Truman administration to the Nixon White House, how our leaders had consistently lied about the reasons we were in Viet Nam and the possibilities of our winning such a war, which cost the nation hundreds of lives. It was The New York Times who actually released the papers and courageously investigated and reported on the large trove of documents. But this version focuses instead on the scrappy little local paper, in those days, who with the help of reporter Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) contacting his old acquaintance Ellsberg to procure a second set of the stolen documents. When The  New York Times is handed a court injunction by the Nixon lawyers, the question becomes whether The Washington Post will rise to the occasion to continue the reporting, a prelude, of course, to their later, very brave covering of the Watergate affair.
     But the real story here, fortunately, is not simply that fact that Bradlee and others were able to make that happen, but the gradual awakening of a previously protected and male-dismissed highly intelligent woman, Graham, who over just a few weeks finds that she must not only alter her relationships with life-time friends such as Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) and speak out against her all-male board, but chance the entire reputation of her beloved family heir-loom by speaking openly and freely in a time in which the Nixon administration was determined to protect itself by misusing all of their power.
      Howard and I were in Washington, D.C. only a few years after, and I would soon write book reviews for The Washington Post under Pulitzer Prize-winning William McPherson’s editorship; and I too, as critics such as Kenneth Turan have written, experienced that storied newsroom, recreated in this movie to perfection.
       So too does Streep manage to somehow recreate the spirit of Graham, showing her literally “coming out,” so to speak, from a somewhat clumsy, highly self-aware woman facing entirely hostile rooms of her male colleagues, to become a savvy and quite fearless woman, suddenly able to tell Bradlee to run the articles when all of her other worthy lawyers and board members warn her just what it might mean, including the destruction of all she loves.
      Sarah Paulson plays Bradlee’s proto-feminist wife, who finally helps him to comprehend just how brave Graham has been, and Alison Brie performs her equally proto-feminist daughter, Lally, the latter of whom quietly helps Graham come into her own. But it is Streep’s remarkable acting which gives the role the slow-growing depth of personality, where, as if she were suddenly perceiving her power and perception, Mrs. Graham gets stronger day by day, until we now can imagine her as the strong force who made The Washington Post into a major American newspaper during the last dark days of the Nixon reign. This film is not really about the Ellsberg Papers as much as it is about the awakening of that powerful newspaper publisher, and that’s what makes it so moving and significant as a movie, better, in my thinking, than the much showier and plot-driven All the President’s Men—still a movie I greatly admire.
      An excellent highlight of this work the moment Bagdikian delivers up a shopping bag to Ben Bradlee, containing newspapers from across the country that have continued with the Ellsberg coverage, meaning that in order to prosecute The New York Times and The Washington Post, authorities would have to close down the entire US newspapers, a shocking possibility. The Supreme Count weighs in, 6-3, that the press has the right to report the truth, something we might remind ourselves in our own dark days.
      At moments the script, by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, is perhaps a bit too overtly didactic—after all they are retelling a story that most younger Americans no longer remember. And I do wish we might have had a bit more of the actual content of the Ellsberg Pentagon Papers to work with, instead of quick headlines. The shocking news they revealed suggested that all politicians lied and lied and lied over the decades, a fact we must face again with the release of the papers by Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden—and god knows what Mueller may eventually reveal about Trump.
      But Spielberg’s film quite clearly points to where it’s going, when, at movie’s end we hear Nixon on the phone, outlawing any The Washington Post reporters from ever entering the White House—the very same moment a young police detective finds that there has been a break-in to the Watergate office of the Democrat Headquarters.

Los Angeles, January 20, 2018

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Buster Keaton and Edward Sedgwick | The Cameraman

A MATINEE IDOL BEHIND THE CAMERA
by Douglas Messerli

Clyde Bruckman and Lew Lipton (writers), Edward Sedgwick and Buster Keaton (directors) The Cameraman / 1928

 
Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman is an absolutely splendid comedy that also saw the beginning of his decline. The move to MGM, with its film factory-like techniques, eventually did away with Keaton’s improvisatory methods, and demanded even more formulaic comedic plots.
     



















Yet this film has a wide range of quite innovative scenes and techniques, including a supposedly disastrous movie made by the former tintype portrait cameraman as his first film which reminds one of the work of Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov, whose Man with a Camera appeared one year later. In another scene, Keaton plays with somewhat homoerotic visions as his character is forced in a small changing room with a large man, with whom he must struggle in order to put on his bathing suit; ultimately the two appear in each other’s swimming gear.
      The longest film-scene, a gangland battle in Chinatown, was ordered up by studio head, Irving Thalberg, much to Keaton’s distress, but it’s still wonderful filmmaking, and Keaton even was able to mock the shoot by placing a small monkey on his back throughout.
      The heroine this time around, Sally (Marceline Day), is a far more independent and capable woman than the simpering Southerner in his The General of a couple of years earlier. And even the more standard routine comedic skits, such as the scene in which he is forced to sit in the rumble seat, while the man trying to steal away his lover, Sally, drives away with the heroine at his side. As critic Donald Egan notes, it is clear, given the sudden rainy downpour that he must endure, that the writers of Singin’ in the Rain had seen this film.
       
     Keaton is even able to mock studio executives further by allowing the money to switch reels, losing him, at first, any possibility of winning over Sally, but finally vindicating his talent and his lover for her; when the reel is rediscovered it also revealed that it was he, and not his enemy, Harold Stagg (Harold Goodwin) who saved Sally’s life. In short, The Cameraman is so much fun, in part, because Keaton, although now drinking more heavily and getting a bit too old to play the naïve innocent, appears to be willing to let the audience in on the jokes. For even is double-exposed and apparently under-lit images are so much better, to my taste, than almost any of Chaplin’s carefully composed and over-rehearsed shots.
       Even when it appears that Keaton has lost the girl, and he walks off as a kind of Chaplinesqe figure, we think of him as a bigger man than the Little Tramp. And Keaton’s true beauty comes through at all moments. We side with him not simply because he is an ordinary man prone to dozens of daily pitfalls, but for the fact that he truly is a kind of matinee idol underneath who, despite all the handsome boys that swarm around Sally, she truly deserves—something I believe both he and the listed director, Edward Sedgwick, were deeply aware of. There is always a kind of secret sexual energy behind Keaton’s best performances, even when he plays an absolute innocent. If nothing else The Cameraman truly reveals that if Chaplin was cute, and Harold Lloyd a kind of likeable nerd, Keaton, behind his constant pratfalls, was a truly beautiful being. Even a monkey could recognize that.
      Unfortunately, this film would be his last great work, with MGM, a company change that he described the worst decision of his life, ultimately draining all Keaton’s brilliant comedic subtlety.   


Los Angeles, January 10, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Greta Gerwig | Lady Bird

A GOLDEN STATE
by Douglas Messerli

Written and directed by Greta Gerwig Lady Bird / 2017

Our dear friend, Diana Daves, who grew up in Sacramento, insisted, the last time we chatted, that we should see Greta Gerwig’s new film Lady Bird, and Howard, who takes in far more current films than I do, quickly took her advice; a few weeks after, on New Year’s Day, he dragged me along to see it again. I’m glad he did.
Image result for Lady Bird film      This is a gentle film simply about a young high school senior trying to live out her last year in an all-girl’s Catholic school; it’s a story any young girl—or boy for that matter—might have experienced, a painful time between complete independence and the dependencies that parents who still see you only as a child demand of their almost grown-up offspring. It’s a time of daring social and sexual experimentation (the same issues were at the heart of Luca Guadagnino’s recent Call Me By Your Name, only from the male view). And it’s a time when one is never more aware of the “slings and arrows” of the world about them.
     It’s also a year that is nearly unbearable for parents, not only because of their desire to still protect their increasingly rebellious children, but because of the deep sense of their impending loss. For today’s parents, moreover, it’s a period of desperation for most families not only to find a college or university for their child, but have to come up with the money to pay for it. People of my generation did not truly comprehend how good they had it; I worked paper routes for years and was able to pay most of my excellent State University education at the University of Wisconsin by myself! Today, it’s nearly unthinkable that a teenager might be able to earn enough to cover even a fraction of the costs.
     And the McPherson family, (father played by Tracy Letts and mother by the amazing actress, Laurie Metcalf), have little money to help, the father having just lost his job and the mother working often twice-a-day shifts as a nurse-counselor. Their poverty and inability to live on “right side of the tracks” is something that not only has embittered the mother, Marion, but helped create further strains for their daughter, the self-named Lady Bird (nothing to do with Lady Bird Johnson), real name Christine (Saoirse Ronan), with her fellow students, some of who come from wealthy families, and, like most teenage girls, gather into clusters often centered around family income and social status.
Image result for Lady Bird film
     Lady Bird has a wonderful friend in the somewhat plump Julie (the incredibly talented Beanie Feldstein), but both would like more fashionable friends as well. And then, there’s the issue of boys. Fortunately, one of the priests is organizing a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along—a rather brave undertaking, I might add, for a Catholic school—and boys from a local all-male Catholic institutions have also been encouraged to audition. There are enough roles in this musical that almost everyone who tries out gets a part, but Julie gets a plumb lead-role, while Lady Bird only nabs a chorus part. Yet, one of the other leads, Danny O’Neill (Lucas Hedges) immediately steals Lady Bird’s heart. Given his youthful good looks and talent, we can well understand why. There are clues, however, that a naïf like Lady Bird—as tough as she pretends to be—simply can’t interpret. The two get along remarkably well, beginning with some serious smooching; she even declares that he might touch her “boobs,” he, as all good boys might, staying that he respects her too much to do that in their still early relationship. I suppose, at that same age, I told a girl I was dating the very same thing. Of course, Danny’s gay, as Lady Bird soon discovers, a devastation to her as it is also to the not yet fully-out Danny.
Image result for Lady Bird film      The startled Lady Bird tries to bounce back, so to speak, by taking up with a young environmentally concerned, bad-boy rocker, Kyle Scheible (Timothée Chalamet—who along with Hedges seemed to have grabbed up all the best young male roles this year). He’s cute, and totally ready to have sex with her. But you just know that he’ll probably eventually become a self-centric tech wizard in Silicon Valley; and when, after picking up in her prom dress, he suggests that they skip the prom for a night out on the town, she asks to be let off at her former friend Julie’s house—who she herself has abandoned to be part of the “in” crowd—and together the two girls joyfully attend the prom together in a wonderful bonding of sisterly love.
Image result for Lady Bird film      For all of these small and inevitable hurts, however, the deepest problem that Lady Bird must face is the open hostility between her and her mother. It’s not that Marion McPherson doesn’t love her; she’s a more than decent woman, having even adopted, or at least excepted into her home, a slightly older Latino boy along with his girl-friend. It’s just that, she, even more than her husband whom she describes as “depressed,” is desperately disappointed with life. Indeed, there are a great many depressed people in this film, including the play-producing Father Leviatch (Stephen Henderson). And Lady Bird’s mother, not so very different from Frances McDormand’s character in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, vents her frustrations quite openly, carrying a kind of personal grudge expressed by her demands for her daughter’s personal grooming, her treatment of clothes, and other rebellious behavioral attitudes.
Image result for Lady Bird film      Lady Bird, quite comprehensibly, wants only one thing: to get away from the most Midwestern city in all of California and to get out from under her mother’s painfully iron rule, which, of course, exacerbates the fissures between them. Marion wants her daughter to attend the nearby University of California-Davis; after all, it’s the only good college they can afford. But Lady Bird, enlisting the help of her more affable father, applies to schools, seeking financial aid, without her mother knowing. Her grades are not spectacular, and she is turned down by Columbia and others, but somehow manages to get put on a waiting list for New York University, finally being accepted.
      When Marion discovers the fact, it appears that all communication has broken down between the two and a rift has occurred even between the normally loving mother and father. Still darker issues are approached when, applying for a tech job from which he is turned down because of his age, the father discovers his own “adopted” son applying for the same job; the younger man is hired.
Image result for Lady Bird film
     You might think, given my descriptions of the plot above, that Gerwig’s work is something closer to a family tragedy than a golden-colored memory book of family at a difficult moment in their lives. But it isn’t at all a dark work, partly because it is a true valentine to the city of its location, Sacramento, and, simultaneously, every single figure in this film is truly human and well-meaning at heart. Even the most minor parts come alive with moments of startling insight, as when the nun who Lady Bird perceives as torturing her, suggests that the young girl’s writing hints at a deep love of the city in which she lives. Or when, after meanly snapping about her daughter’s choice for a prom dress as being “too pink,” the mother bites her tongue in deep regret, knowing just how much she has hurt the one she so desperately loves. Larry McPherson suggests he and his daughter “celebrate” his job rejection with a bag of Fritos. Danny returns to the girl he has hurt, begging for her to keep his being gay quiet and tearfully asking for forgiveness; even Kyle spouts concerns about climate change and human waste. There is simply not an evil being in this motion picture. And director Gerwig is so remarkable in both her writing and visual telling of her story, that she has become a force worth watching. We need more of her quiet and positive insights.
     Even the rebellious daughter, after a drunken night which lands her in the hospital, calls home to share with her mother a small previous excitement, after finally obtaining her license to drive, of her first solo car trip through Sacramento. Even though she is now far-away in New York, she has returned home to claim her original name.    


Los Angeles, January 2, 2018