There is a perfect little gem of a movie at your local theatre right now called Ladybird that perfectly evokes the real spirit of Thanksgiving. Or, at least, what it should be.
No, this is not because it has turkey dinners, enviable family gatherings or even any one real specific major revelation about what or whom we should all be majorly thankful for in life.
I mean, is there one such precious individual or experience that you can pinpoint from your past or present? Certainly I can’t think of one.
So instead what the immensely insightful writer-director Greta Gerwig (who will now finally be shed of the loaded and limiting moniker of “go-to indie actress”) has given us is a whole series of people and memories and hurts and pleasures from a fictionalized vision of her own last year of high school that trusts US to look inward and draw our own conclusions.
Who was a jerk and who was wrong? Were you actually born into this family or unwillingly dropped into one of nature’s most regrettable mistakes? Are you right about more things than you’ve given yourself credit for or is that just your guilt or subconscious trying to sell you that there might have been two or more moments when THEY could have known better?
Of course we all have our THEYs but they differ depending on the age we are and what we’re experiencing.
This was the point of Ladybird for me and why it feels exactly right for Thanksgiving 2017. We should be grateful for all of it – every last moment – for THEY have brought us to where WE are today.
If that’s not what we want we can choose to do better.
If that’s what we like we can look back in joy and appreciation – or in fear that it will inevitably one day all disintegrate and turn into dust and sand. Or we will.
This is hardly revelatory stuff. Except in moments that you need to be reminded of it. Then it is.
It is also why the coming of age movie will always be a timeless and enduring genre that each generation or subset of a generation – yes that means anyone reading this – defines for itself.
No – this does not mean be grateful for the AWFUL (fill in this blank with the myriad sickening moments you’ve barely lived through or witnessed of your choice.
Please. This is not in any way meant to be inspirational and we have a whole host of upcoming holidays from which to draw those lessons from. But sometimes art – and yeah, many films these days still qualify as such – can remind all of us that what we get in any given year is usually a mixed bag that we figure out how to uniquely proceed through or get stuck in. It is this, all of this, that specifically makes us, individually – US.
And in the moments they are happening, we are usually the worst judges of US.
It seems not insightful but merely truthful to write this at the end of what has been a very difficult year for many of US – especially in the U.S. (Note: And its territories).
One supposes there are some – okay, at most a very small plurality – who get up each day singing the 2017 equivalent of Zippity-Doo-Da. But if you live in LA as I do, or in the NY or San Francisco areas, where many of my friends and relatives are located, it’s a tough lift to imagine.
And yet –
I would like to see the negative events of 2017 – starting with Trumpism, moving through various climate and/or gun-related disasters, then segueing on to the public exposure of the nauseating ordinariness of sexual abuse in our culture, and finally ending with each of our own specific misfortunes in the last ten months – as part of a continuum.
They are part of what we are and have become – for sure.
But they DO NOT tell our ENTIRE story.
It’s too simplistic to define four years by 10 months or a single, seemingly cacophonic event. Just as it is way too reductive to define a young woman’s trajectory in life by the jerky boy she got rejected by in high school or the harsh, withholding mother who never understood her.
Ladybird respects her heroine enough not to underestimate her and it feels, at this time of the year, that we might all resist the temptation to pull the rug out from under ourselves or our worlds before our final scenes are played.
Some months ago I was seated at the bar of a hip restaurant in West Hollywood a dear friend had taken me to in order to cheer me up after some disconcerting news. (Note: Yes, the BAR – it was the only seating immediately available and it featured not only the same food but a real 180 degree CARRERA MARBLE countertop).
In any event, seated right next to me eating THE MOST FABULOUS food, was this very lovely, friendly and much more hip looking lesbian couple from London enjoying a pizza we knew we immediately had to order and, well many laughs we (well, I) clearly knew we had to be a part of.
After striking up a conversation, within minutes I’d somehow forgotten why we were there, tuned out the noise from any number of obnoxious Hollywood types within earshot and became thoroughly entranced with the very hip, funny London lesbianers’ tours of Venice Beach, the Hollywood sign, and tale of one particular dish at some other restaurant I’d been to many times that the most infectiously happy and hipper of the pair made me promise to go back and try because it would literally change my life.
I felt better until it was almost time to leave when I suddenly and uncontrollably blurted out:
I just want you to know that Trump – so many of us didn’t support him. Please don’t think of us like that.
At which point, she put her hand on mine, looked me in the eye and replied:
Oh love, we know. We all know. Please, don’t take that on yourself.
She smiled, I nodded, she paid the check and she turned away. Then she got up and I noticed she was wearing a HUGE yet very stylishly hip diamond ring that sparkled her way towards the light by the door.
Wow, I thought, that’s quite a rock, no wonder she’s so happy.
Of course, as we know, nothing is ever that simple. Much as we’d like it to be.
Doris Day – “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”