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Greta Gerwig’s Adorable Letter to Justin Timberlake Is as Personal & Beautiful as Lady Bird Itself

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I sat down to write about the above video, which features Greta Gerwig talking to Seth Meyers about the letter she wrote to Justin Timberlake, asking if she could use one of his songs in her new movie, Lady Bird. It’s an adorable video, but its real beauty is in how it reflects so much about the movie itself. And in watching this cute interview, I find myself flooded with admiration for the film all over again.

Lady Bird is a spectacular film. It’s the kind of adolescent coming-of-age period piece (because time keeps moving maddeningly forward in such a way that the early aughts are now the setting for “period pieces”) that we see all the time, full of emotional growth spurts and tragic misunderstandings between parents and children. But this is not only one of the best of its genre, but its protagonist is not the sort we normally see here. I’m confident that pretty much everyone will love this movie, but there’s something extra personal about this kind of story when it directly reflects your own coming of age. And I’ve rarely, if ever, seen a nostalgia-driven protagonist that so closely resembles myself.

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (and also Gerwig herself) is almost my exact age, approaching high school graduation in the early aughts. The character and the time are presented with such personal intimacy, it was an immediate time-travel transport back to not just the time and place, but the feelings, oh god there were so many feelings. And all of them, as a teenager, were felt so hard.

(Side note: at one point, Lady Bird laments to her mother that she wishes she could “live through something,” a sentiment I remember all too vividly sharing with my mostly white, mostly middle-class suburban friends. Where was our movement, our cause? I wanted nothing more than to reach through the screen and tell Lady Bird to just wait till her early 30s, because oh boy, she is going to live through some terrible, momentous times.)

It’s those feelings of teenage angst, passion, desperation, and the dire importance of all of them that come through in Gerwig’s letters to Timberlake, Alanis Morrisette, and Dave Matthews. The letters read like Gerwig wrote them at 18, rather than as her actual 32-year-old self. She needs these songs in the movie like her teenage self needed them in her life. When she tells Dave Matthews that “Crash Into Me” is “the most romantic song ever,” that is a sentiment that must be underlined. They’re all so earnest it feels like we’re reading her (or, let’s be real, our own) diary, rather than a letter written by an adult only two years ago. Even if these artists weren’t the soundtrack to your specific youth, the feeling is undeniably relateable.

It always feels good to see a director and creator who’s this passionate, engaged, and this genuinely happy about their work. We like seeing directors get this invested. It’s just rare for so many of us to feel the same level of personal connection with that work.

It’s almost like representation–bear with me here–matters.

(image: YouTube)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.