Another learning opportunity – and one heck of an entertaining experience – awaits writers in the form of Lady Bird, a character-driven film currently in major release, starring 2-time Oscar nominated actress Saoirse Ronan and written/directed by the poster-child of character-driven movies, Greta Gerwig (best known as an actress, though she quietly has 10 film writing credits, and may just score Oscar nominations here for writing and/or directing).
I almost didn’t see this movie. While I applaud Gerwig’s many acting successes, her films haven’t proven to be my preferred cup of tea. But when Rotten Tomatoes gave Lady Bird a 100 % critics score (90 % from viewers), and because I’m a big fan of Ronan (most of us first saw her in The Lovely Bones, one of my favorite novel-to-film titles), I got out of my own way and found myself lost in the film from the opening scene (see clip below).
Here’s why I recommend this film to writers: it exemplifies two things that are high on the degree-of-difficulty attributes of story.
- Scene writing: While it’s easy to simply get lost in this narrative, the scenes will keep you smiling and nodding. Each scene resides within the arc of the story as a unique dramatic unit. Unlike many character-centric stories, each scene contributes massively to the exposition, depositing something that builds on what precedes it, while setting up that which follows it.
Many of the scenes – more than most – will surprise you with a twist, either to the character or to the exposition. And while you’ll laugh (hard) at many of these antics, you’ll also have to manage your emotions, which are always at the forefront of the mission of each and every scene.
2) Concept/Premise: The premise here is light on conceptual weight, something I like to emphasize, if nothing more than because it’s really hard to bring a non-conceptual story alive.
Here’s the pitch: the story follows a socially-awkward girl through her senior year of high school in Sacramento, CA, showing us the stressful relationship she has with her controlling mother (played by the wonderful Laurie Metcalf, best known from her role in television’s The Big Bang Theory).
Not exactly a must-see proposition.
And yet… it sizzles on the screen. Not just because of Ronan’s riveting performance (get ready for her third Oscar nod from this), but because of Greta Gerwig’s ear for dialogue and nose for the journey of transitioning from child to young adult.
Check out the trailer below, you’ll see these very things manifesting within these two and a half minutes. After you see the film, chip in your thoughts below.
Enjoy. And learn while you’re at it. I know I did.