Greta Gerwig (USA, 1983), originally an actress and assistant in
Joseph Swanberg's "mumblecore" movies, co-directed and co-wrote with him
Nights and Weekends (2008).
She co-write and starred in Noah Baumbach's
Frances Ha (2012) and
Mistress America (2015).
She finally debuted as the sole director of
Lady Bird (2017), a classic " coming-of-age " story.
A middle-class mother is driving her daughter to school. The
girl wants to be called Lady Bird. She
hates California and dreams of attending a college on the other coast of
the USA. Her mother tells her that the family cannot afford it.
Annoyed by her mother's litany, Lady Bird jumps off the car.
She is enrolled in a Catholic school run by nuns.
The head nun advises her to sign up for a musical.
She and her friend Julie do so, and at the
audition they meet a handsome boy, Danny.
Her mom keeps reminding her that they are not rich.
In fact, her father loses his job and falls into a well-disguised depression,
but hides it to Lady Bird.
Lady Bird and Danny fall in love. She attends a
holiday dinner at his granma's big mansion, quite a contrast with her
own parents' humble house. He is also rich. But then one day
Julie and Lady Bird catch Danny kissing another boy: he is gay.
Her father promises to help her financially even if he is broke.
Lady Bird gets a job and one day flirts with a customer, the member of a rock
band, Kyle. She also starts hanging out with Jenna,
a popular rebellious and pretentious girl who boasts about sex.
One night Jenna drives Lady Bird to a parking lot where kids meet, and Lady Bird
meets Kyle again. She starts going out with him. Meanwhile,
Danny begs Lady Bird not to tell anytbody that he is gay.
He cries on her shoulder because he's scared.
At home she has arguments with her mother, who thinks she is insensitive
to their financial situation.
She has sex with Kyle, who tells her that he is a virgin too like her.
Her mom tells her that her dad is jobless and suffering from depression.
Lady Bird, increasingly attracted to Jenna's and Kyle's more mature crowd,
has forgotten about Julie, who resents it.
Lady Bird is becoming a rebel too: she talks back to
a bigot tutor and gets suspended.
Lady Bird lies about her house to Jenna, pretending that she lives in the mansion that belongs to Danny's granma. Jenna goes to visit her there and finds out
the lie. Lady Bird loses credibility with Jenna.
Lady Bird applies to college on the East Coast thereby angering her mother
who keeps reminding her that the family cannot afford to pay for it.
Her mother wants her to enroll in a nearby college.
Lady Bird has sex again with Kyle, but this time Kyle tells her that he was
not a virgin and claims he never said it. She is disappointed.
Television keeps broadcasting news of the USA bombing Afghanistan after
the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Lady Bird is excited when she receives a reply from a university that she is
waitlisted, which is better than being rejected.
Her father is rejected at a job interview, and on the way out meets his son
who is going to the same interview (and will get the job).
Lady Bird is becoming disillusioned with Jenna's and Kyle's crowd.
Kyle offers to pick her to go to the prom dance but then Kyle and Jenna
decide to go to a party instead. Lady Bird asks to be dropped off at
Julie's home, where the girls become friends again and decide to attend
the prom together, without boys.
School's over, and the family celebrates her graduation at a restaurant.
Alas, her mother learns by accident that she has applied to colleges on
the East Coast and resents Lady Bird's selfishness so much that she stops
talking to her. She refuses to talk to her daughter even if her daughter
begs her. Lady Bird turns 18 and celebrates with her father, who sneaks
into her room, but not with her mother. Lady Bird
passes the driver-license test, buys cigarettes and a porn magazine,
all the things that she couldn't do before turning 18.
A letter arrives that she has been accepted by her favorite college in New York.
Her father keeps his promise and borrows money to pay for her studies.
Her parents drive her to the airport, but her mother still refuses to speak
to her and doesn't even see her off to the airplane. Her father does. Her
mother drives away but then starts crying and drives back. She arrives too
late to bid goodbye to her daughter.
Her father has slipped handwritten pages in Lady Bird's suitcase that she finds in New York: they are letters written by her mother that her mother never sent,
but they show all her love.
One night she gets drunk at a party and ends up in a hospital.
When she is released, she goes into a church, then calls home calling herself
Christine, not Lady Bird, and telling her mom how much she loves her.
Little Women (2019) was yet another film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's 1868 novel, possibly the seventh overall.
Barbie (2023), cowritten with Noah Baumbach and
based on Mattel's "Barbie" dolls,
was suddenly a major big-budget film and possibly the most hyped one of the era.
It turned a doll into a real person, first living in a fantasy world and then in the real world. It had echoes of timeless stories of toys turned humans like "Pinocchio", and of films about a cartoon character that wants to become human, like
Robert Zemeckis' Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Ralph Bakshi's Cool World (1992).
And also a touch of Aristophanes' proto-feminist comedy "Lysistrata", and a touch of
Busby Berkeley's musicals of the 1930s and of nostalgic musical Randal Kleiser's Grease (1978).
It also had a feminist message, improbably turning the doll that coaches girls to become housewives into a symbol of female domination.
The film opens in "Barbieland", a plastic toy city by the beach, painted in pink, which is a perfect society run by "Barbie" dolls in which boys are all named "Ken" and only exist to serve the Barbies.
It's a matriarchal society in which only women are doctors, lawyers, politicians, etc.
The protagonist of the story is a clunky blonde blue-eyed stereotypical Barbie constantly wearing high-heel shoes and colorful clothes.
Beach Ken is in love with her and has to compete with the other Kens for her attention.
A party shows them dancing like in the Grease movie.
Life repeats itself always identical until Barbie begins to have thoughts of death and loses her perfect smile. She consults with
Weird Barbie, a doll that was abused by the owner.
Weird Barbie warns Barbie that she is about to destroy everything. To repair herself and save Barbieland, Barbia must
travel into the real world and find the child injecting sad thoughts into her.
Barbie takes off in a toy car and Beach Ken hides in the back seat.
They reach a Los Angeles beach and are repeatedly arrested because they don't know how the real world works, e.g. that they have to pay for what they buy.
An employee of the Mattel firm realizes that there are two dolls loose in the real world and informs the CEO, an inept imbecile who is only interested in maximizing profit. Alarmed by the potential damage caused by a Barbie showing up as a real girl, he corrals the whole board to search for her.
Meanwhile, Barbie has tracked down her owner to a highschool. The girl, however, not only denies owning it but is also a hardcore feminist who hates what Barbie stands for. Barbie is humiliated and in tears.
Captured by the Mattel executives, Barbie is told to enter a box so that things can return to normal, but Barbie hesitates and then escapes, helped by an old woman who lives in a secluded office.
Barbie is picked up by Gloria,
the girl's mother, who recognizes her, and Barbie realizes
that Gloria, not her daughter Sasha, is the one who has been playing with her.
Gloria is a very sad woman and finds comfort in the doll.
Gloria also happens to be the CEO's assistant. She has been drawing new Barbies as a hobby, ignored by everybody.
Meanwhile, Beach Ken is roaming the real world and starts appreciating that the real world is run by men. For the first time in his life, he feels that he is superior to women.
Beach Ken returns to Barbieland determined to spre
Gloria and Sasha drive Barbie away just when the posse of Mattel executives in suit and tie are closing in on her.
The three women decide to take shelter in Barbieland.
Barbie is already telling Gloria and Sasha how great life is in Barbieland, but
a bad surprise awaits her: instigated by Beach Ken, the Kens have taken over and turned Barbieland into a patriarchy. The Barbies are now submissive housewives, maids and girlfriends.
An inspirational speech by Gloria and some scheming by Barbie galvanizes the Barbies to revolt. Beach Ken falls into a depression and identity crisis.
(Here the film turns into a musical, replete with allegorical dances).
Barbie too doesn't know how to end the story.
The old woman who helped her in Mattel's building shows up: she's Barbie's inventor Ruth Handler and comforts Barbie that her story is
never-ending and ever-evolving.
The Mattel executives who are now in Barbieland suddenly realize that there is amarket for an "ordinary" Barbie and happily return to the real world.
Barbie decides to follow Gloria and Sasha back to the real world.
Barbie becomes "Barbara Handler" and finds a job.
The film ends when a nervous Barbie is having her first gynecological appointment.