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What will Sacramento do for an encore? How about ‘Lady Bird v. Apocalypse’?

‘Lady Bird’ shows off Sacramento locations

The critically-acclaimed movie "Lady Bird" gives Sacramento lots of recognizable screen time.
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The critically-acclaimed movie "Lady Bird" gives Sacramento lots of recognizable screen time.

Here’s the good news in Sacramento: “Lady Bird,” set in Sacramento and written and directed by the California capital’s own Greta Gerwig, is nominated for five Academy Awards.

Here’s the better news: “I would like to make a quartet of films in Sacramento,” Gerwig told The Sacramento Bee. “I have three more before the quartet is done.”

What will they be about? Perhaps not even Gerwig herself knows. But “Lady Bird” is grounded in her hometown’s real experiences, places, and challenges. So it’s possible that Gerwig might do for 21st-century Sacramento what Woody Allen and Spike Lee did for 20th-century New York: Give it defining narratives.

Sacramento badly needs a narrative. It’s an enigma and not in a good way. Why is a place with so many advantages – beautiful rivers, a sophisticated state government, the proximity of world-leading agriculture and the Bay Area – such a persistent disappointment?

Sacramento badly needs such a narrative. It’s an enigma and not in a good way. Why is a place with so many advantages – beautiful rivers, a sophisticated state government, the proximity of world-leading agriculture and the Bay Area – such a persistent disappointment?

The city lags in economic growth, jobs and access to health care. The capital region ranked 58th – behind Albany, N.Y. – out of 102 American metro areas in one survey of educational attainment. No wonder Lady Bird schemes to leave for an elite, private New York college her family can’t afford.

Given the potential for Gerwig’s future films, I – in the spirit of civic renewal and artistic inspiration – hereby offer my own abridged treatments for sequels.

“Lady Bird Gets Her Tree”

After getting her MFA, Lady Bird moves home. At Old Soul, she meets a poor artist from South Sacramento (Michael B. Jordan). When her parents sell their house and retire to Texas, the young couple falls behind on the $1,500 rent on an Oak Park one-bedroom, because their only steady jobs are driving for Lyft.

Their landlord evicts them to rent to richer Bay Area arrivals. Lady Bird is forced into the American River homeless camps. But inspired by the region’s beautiful tree canopy, she builds a treehouse in West Sacramento, and the housing-friendly council lets her stay.

“Lady Bird Returns: Hired Liar”

Lady Bird returns to snag a low-level staff job in the Capitol. After fending off lecherous legislators, she becomes a lobbyist for children’s programs. She quickly discovers that the Legislature and governor don’t care about children, and are cutting kids’ programs. Worse, in a horror movie turn, she learns that millions of California children are imprisoned in a secret, off-budget city beneath the Capitol.

When the diminished media won’t write the story because only three journalists are left in Sacramento, she despairs. But then she meets a wealthy British-born telecommunications lobbyist (Tom Hiddleston). They carry out a love affair in his San Francisco pied-à-terre and Tahoe chateau. In a luxury box at the Kings arena, he proposes. “Yes,” she replies, “on one condition. Promise me we’ll never have children. Because the schools here suck.”

“Lady Bird in the Swamp”

After eating a deep-fried, bacon-wrapped peanut-butter cup at the State Fair, Lady Bird becomes disoriented and drives into a Delta slough. She’s rescued by a handsome seventh-generation pear farmer (Chris Pine), who makes her his wife. The film becomes a climate change pastoral, as Lady Bird struggles with worsening flood and drought in the Delta, and takes on the DIY job of putting her home on stilts.

Then mysterious engineers appear. Powerful water agencies are secretly drilling an underground water tunnel. In an Erin Brockovich-style finale, Lady Bird investigates – and throws her body in front of the tunneling machine. She is killed, but so is the tunnel project.

“Lady Bird v. Apocalypse”

In 2050, Lady Bird returns as a cyborg. She lives in Sacramento until a Pineapple Express rain system deluges the city, collapsing levees and flooding the town.

She heads to the foothills, but gun-toting locals shoot at city refugees, because they vote too Democratic. So she turns to Davis where NIMBYs express sympathy but refuse to accept refugees, because they would bring new development.

The floodwaters carry an exhausted Lady Bird to Stockton, where she encounters a butt-kicking fellow cyborg (Harrison Ford). He takes her by catamaran to Sacramento, and they restore order in California’s capital.

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square. He can be contacted at joe@zocalopublicsquare.org.

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