"Lady Bird," Greta Gerwig's "love letter" to Sacramento, came up empty at Sunday night's Oscars. But that hardly dampened the enthusiasm of about 250 people who attended a viewing party in the gymnasium at St. Francis High School, Gerwig's alma mater.
"We're just proud of her being nominated," said Vivian Yo, a 16-year-old St. Francis sophomore who was at the $25-a-ticket gathering and, like many there, was decked out in formal wear. Many wore pins that said, "I (Love) Lady Bird."
Most whistled and cheered whenever Gerwig was mentioned or featured on camera, including a red carpet interview where she said. "If anybody is watching in Sacramento, I love you guys. I love you. I love you and I love St. Francis." And they cheered even more later when Gerwig sent a video directly to those at the prom-like St. Francis gathering.
"Lady Bird" had cast a glow over Sacramento for months – drawing national attention to the capital as a picturesque place cherished by the film's lead character, a young woman preparing to head off to college in New York. In her semi-autobiographical movie, writer and director Gerwig pulled from her own experiences growing up in a place she couldn’t wait to leave but appreciated once she was gone.
"Lady Bird" – Gerwig's solo directorial debut – received five nominations, including Best Picture. Made on a $10 million budget, the coming-of-age comedy-drama entered awards season among the favorites. It received a near perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes as the year’s best reviewed movie. It also had winning connections: Distributor A24 won Best Picture in 2017 for “Moonlight.”
In January, “Lady Bird” won the Golden Globe as Best Comedy or Musical as well as a Golden Globe for its titular star, Saiorse Ronan, as best actress. In her acceptance speech, Gerwig, who grew up in River Park, thanked Sacramento for giving her “roots and wings.”
Gerwig is now counted among a tiny group of women filmmakers even nominated for a directing Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In Oscar’s 90 years, only five women had been nominated for best director. (Kathryn Bigelow won in 2010 for “The Hurt Locker.”) Gerwig, 34, also was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
Topping off awards season, Gerwig appears on the March 12 cover of Time magazine.
Set in 2002 and 2003, the film follows the senior year of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson at a Catholic high school in Sacramento as she plots her escape to a New York college. Along the way, she discovers love, sex and musical theater.
At its heart, “Lady Bird” is a daughter-mother love story. Both nominated for Oscars, Ronan (best actress) and Laurie Metcalf (best supporting actress) portrayed that complicated relationship. It was Ronan’s third Oscar nomination following her work in “Atonement” (2007) and “Brooklyn” (2015).
Metcalf had the chance to earn a rare Oscar-Emmy-Tony acting trifecta. A three-time Emmy winner for “Roseanne,” Metcalf won a Tony in 2017 for her Broadway performance in “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”
Sacramento starred alongside the movie's actresses. During five days of local shooting in October 2016, Gerwig plucked many Sacramento landmarks, mostly as cameos, but some as pivotal settings such as McKinley Park’s memorial rose garden, the Tower Bridge and East Sacramento’s Fabulous Forties neighborhood.
“(Besides positive reviews), the other big response is that everybody tells me they want to come visit Sacramento,” Gerwig said after the movie’s premiere.
“Lady Bird” premiered Sept. 1 at Telluride Film Festival and picked up positive buzz at two more film festivals before its Sacramento premiere Oct. 29 at the Tower Theatre, where it has screened continuously for four months. Since its nationwide release Thanksgiving weekend, “Lady Bird” has grossed about $53 million.
“I wanted to make a love letter to Sacramento as seen through the eyes of someone who can’t appreciate how beautiful it is until she’s going away to someplace else,” Gerwig told The Bee before the movie was originally released. “That’s very true of 17-year-olds. You don’t realize how beautiful a place is until you step away.”