If you saw Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, and did not love it, you are, sadly, very alone. The movie, which stars Saoirse Ronan as a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento who navigates sex, relationships, school plays, and college applications over the course of her final year at school, opened November 3 and has since become the score aggregator and Hollywood nemesis Rotten Tomatoes’ best-reviewed movie of all time, with 165 reviews placing it at 100 percent “fresh.”
This latest accolade for Lady Bird should come as little surprise to anyone who kept up with the early reviews of the film. The New York Times gave it an unremitting rave, describing it as “big-screen perfection.” The New Yorker called it “exquisite.” Susan Wloszczyna, writing for Roger Ebert, said, “hardly a false step is taken.”
Lady Bird slid in ahead of Toy Story 2, the previous record holder at 100 percent based on 163 reviews (its follow-up Toy Story 3, briefly, had a 100 percent rating as well, but has since been knocked down to 99 percent), and Man on Wire, at 100 percent based on 157 reviews; Gerwig’s film is also the only live-action narrative feature to earn a 100 percent rating based on more than 80 reviews. (The select other films to earn such a position are documentaries and animation, like the Toy Story sequel and the Studio Ghibli feature The Tale of Princess Kaguya.)
Of course, in another, more perfect world, Lady Bird would not be alone: Earlier this year, another directorial debut by an actor, Jordan Peele’s horror-satire Get Out, held a 100 percent rating for a fleeting, radiant moment, until the 116th reviewer, conservative critic Armond White, panned it in a review for The National Review. This set off a whole adjacent drama when actor Lakeith Stanfield, who also stars in Get Out, tweeted, “Armond White is a bitch.” The tweet has since been taken down—Stanfield is a notorious tweet-and-deleter, and he’s aired such controversial opinions as “Migos are garbage” on Twitter—but he later told Esquire, “Most, if not all, of his reviews ring to me to be trolling in nature.”
It's worth noting that White's primary criticism concerned the racial politics of Get Out—politics that led Peele to (somewhat mockingly) dub the film a "documentary" after it was categorized as a comedy at the Golden Globes. Lady Bird, by contrast, focuses on a predominantly white Californian milieu, and since whiteness is still treated as the norm in American society, this is far less likely to be taken as a point of criticism. (That's not to say Lady Bird isn't deserving of its score, but merely to point out that it might not be subject to the same kind of outright pan that brought down Get Out's score.)
Judging by its box office, Lady Bird’s popular appeal has kept pace with its critical one. In its first four weeks, it has raked in more than $10 million in relatively limited distribution—it has been released in fewer than 800 theaters. It was nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards and three Gotham Awards (four, if you include the audience award), the prizegiving for which is slated for Monday evening. So Lady Bird's already excellent Monday-after-the-holiday-weekend is poised to get even better. We will consider all of this a final referendum on "Crash Into Me."
Saoirse Ronan's favorite sex scene is both wonderful and hilarious: