Not every year does a filmmaker’s solo feature debut sweep you up in its sweetness and pain, in its humility and frankness, and in its confidence in the art and craft of filmmaking. Of course, it has happened before, bringing to mind Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station—and now Greta Gerwig and Lady Bird.
Greta has a kind of momentum that feels like it must help contain a million good ideas from flying out of the atmosphere. It’s not a nervous energy; it’s an engaged one. I remember debating with her at the Oscar nominees’ luncheon. When Greta has heard your point, her hands flutter up—a pitcher’s wild windup, subverting any indication of the precision and effectiveness of what she’s about to fire back. And for a few stunning seconds, her elder becomes her student.
This must have been the electricity that burned bright on the Lady Bird set. And it will be her gift to us in whatever she takes on next. The poet David Whyte wrote, “Good poetry begins with the lightest touch—a breeze arriving from nowhere, a whispered healing arrival.” The poetry of Greta Gerwig’s filmmaking is that breeze I cannot wait to feel again.
Spielberg is an Oscar-winning director