Greta Gerwig's love letter to Sacramento and the last months of high school has just scored a major internet honor. According to IndieWire, Lady Bird is now the best-reviewed movie on Rotten Tomatoes.
This is a very big deal. Not just because the Saoirse Ronan-starring film is a movie made by a woman filmmaker, or because its central character is a 17-year-old girl: Lady Bird's success is crucial to toppling the notion that women-led movies have to be Massive Hollywood Blockbusters in order to receive the same acclaim as their male-starring counterparts.
Like most people on the planet, I enjoyed Wonder Woman. I adored Gal Gadot's performance as the unapologetically kind, yet strong-willed and fierce Diana Prince. The movie, which was directed by Patty Jenkins, was no doubt "good for women" in Hollywood. It broke box-office records, was far better reviewed than, err, say, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and, importantly, did not objectify the very woman whose story it was telling.
But here's the thing: We all know that a Wonder Woman film is a no-brainer idea. She's one of the most famous superheroines of all time, and one of the most beloved. Wonder Woman's commercial and critical success is impressive, for sure, but it's not entirely surprising.
As for "Lady Bird," a.k.a. Christine, who Ronan portrays in Gerwig's film? She's not a superhero. She doesn't have magical powers. She's not even undeniably likeable, a la Diana Prince.
That's why the critical success of Lady Bird — and, just as importantly, its commercial success — is huge for women. It's more concrete proof that, no, women don't need to be near-perfect creatures with the most exciting life ever to make great film subjects.
Honestly, the fact that Lady Bird was even made and seen by mass audiences is downright shocking. It's not the kind of movie that Hollywood thinks should do well. It's not based on a comic book character like Wonder Woman; it's not action-packed and sleek like Atomic Blonde. It's not even adapted from a best-selling novel, like Gone Girl or Girl On the Train.
It's already hard to make original movies like Lady Bird, and it's even harder to make them with women as the leads. Just look at the stats: According to a 2017 report from the BBC, the number of women in films has only gone up 2% since 1913.
With such a limited number of opportunities for women, maybe it's time we expand everywhere a woman's place is on the big screen. After all, Lady Bird isn't the only example that shows audiences want more original movies starring women: The comedy Girls Trip also absolutely crushed it at the box office, despite not being attached to any existing property.
Women's stories can be an exciting thing, all on their own. Thanks, Lady Bird, for reminding us.
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