Movie News & Reviews

Is this Sacramento-set film an Oscar hopeful? It shows the signs

Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” starring Saoirse Ronan, is being positioned as an Oscar contender.
Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” starring Saoirse Ronan, is being positioned as an Oscar contender. Courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival

“Lady Bird,” a Sacramento-set film that marks Sacramento-born actress/screenwriter Greta Gerwig’s solo feature directorial debut, is being positioned as an awards contender by distributor A24 Films – the outfit behind 2017 Oscar best-picture winner “Moonlight.”

The film will screen Sept. 8 at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival, a longtime predictor of the Hollywood awards race. A24 will release “Lady Bird” in New York and Los Angeles on Nov. 10, in the thick of awards season. A Sacramento release date has not been set.

The scuttlebutt, given that Toronto lists “Lady Bird” as an “international premiere” rather than North American premiere, is the film will get its first screening at this weekend’s Telluride Film Festival. Telluride does not announce its lineup before the event. “Moonlight” premiered last year at Telluride.

“Lady Bird” shot scenes in Sacramento this past fall. It stars 2016 best actress Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”) as Sacramento Catholic high school student Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson. (Christine is Gerwig’s mother’s name).

According to the Toronto program guide, the “ambitious, bright and precocious” character wants “to break free of suburban Sacramento.” Christine dreams, the guide’s description of the movie continues, of “ a different life of East Coast skyscrapers, Ivy League universities and cosmopolitan culture.”

After graduating from St. Francis Catholic High School, Gerwig left Sacramento for New York City’s Ivy League-adjacent Barnard College. But home continued to call to her creatively.

Her character in the critically acclaimed 2013 film “Frances Ha” also was a Sacramentan turned New Yorker. Director Noah Baumbach shot part of “Frances Ha” in River Park, the neighborhood where Gerwig grew up.

Gerwig and Baumbach collaborated on the script for “Frances Ha,” for which Gerwig was nominated for an acting Golden Globe. Gerwig co-directed the 2008 film “Nights & Weekends” with Joe Swanberg.

Sacramento has ties to other Toronto festival films as well. Brie Larson, the former Elk Grove resident and winner of the 2016 lead-actress Oscar for her performance in “Room,” also has directed a film that will air there. Larson plays a young woman who gets a chance to own a unicorn in the comedy “Unicorn Store,” her feature-length directing debut.

Former Sacramentan Jessica Chastain stars in one of the most high-profile directing debuts at the festival, “Molly’s Game,” which marks Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s (“The Social Network”) first time in the director’s chair. Chastain plays Molly Bloom, one-time real-life maven of a high-stakes underground poker game for Hollywood celebrities, athletes and Russian mobsters. “Molly’s Game” will hit theaters in November.