Two movies have excited me since I saw them. The first is Lady Bird, which is a sweetly sad story about the love between a mother and a daughter who is searching for her identity. The other is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which is an unexpectedly inspiring story about the grit of a woman who refuses to succumb to tragedy.
One reason is the technical appeal of these movies. Director Greta Gerwig and Cinematographer Sam Levy infuse Lady Bird with sequences of images, for example, that reinforce the connotations of this story. Another is that both helped me think about the world, which was as, if not more, appealing. Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) in Three Billboards, for instance, unabashedly pursues her interests even when doing so leads to unexpected, and even for some inappropriate, situations that attest to the complexity of justice both within and beyond the system.
The more encouraging reason, however, was that I saw both, which feature complex, and female, characters as the central focus, at my local movie theater. Such character or plot development often requires a trip to a limited number of venues that feature smaller-budget movies or foreign films. In these cases, this narrative complexity was easily available to my neighbors and me, and many others in part because these movies were distributed by larger, and more successful companies — Lady Bird was distributed by A24, which is the same company that also distributed the 2016 Golden Globe and Oscar Best Picture movie, and Three Billboards was distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, which is in the process of being bought by an even larger company.
My hope is that these and others represent a new era in American movies for mass consumption. Although I’m apprehensive about the economics of artistic production, I’m nonetheless encouraged that such multidimensional movies could have an increased appeal to bigger distribution companies, which could increase access to more complicated stories. This possibility would only enhance our public conversations about living good, true, and beautiful lives within increasingly complex globalized communities.