Sacramento is having a moment.
Thanks to “Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig’s critically acclaimed movie about a teen who longs to leave her hometown, the city is suddenly in the spotlight—and for good reason. The film pays homage to Sacramento with myriad visual nods and references.
Gerwig’s love for the state capital runs deep: She thanked the people of Sacramento for “giving me roots and wings” in her Best Picture Golden Globe acceptance speech. No thanks necessary—Gerwig does Sacramento justice in her depiction of this often (until now) overlooked city. Read on to learn five things “Lady Bird” gets right about the City of Trees.
1. It’s quiet and under-appreciated.
Early in the film, “Lady Bird”’s titular character dismisses her hometown as the “Midwest of California”. Translation: It’s slow-paced, stodgy even. Neither a coastal or mountain town, it’s basically a flyover state—often overlooked, or ignored. OK, fine, Sacramento is the Midwest of the Golden State—but in the best way possible. Compared to New York (where Lady Bird longs to flee), it’s quiet and unassuming—and, honestly, we’re OK with that.
2. It has its own slang.
When Lady Bird informs her crush Kyle that she graffitied a nun’s car with the words “Just Married to Jesus,” he rewards her bravado with “that’s hella tight.” The phrase as a whole is Sacramento teenage accurate and, on its own, “hella” is a uniquely Northern California word that epitomizes this town’s chill vibe (see also, “hecka”). There’s even a popular indie rock band called Hella—and, yes, they’re from Sacramento.
3. It’s culturally unique.
Gerwig has called “Lady Bird” her “love letter to Sacramento”—and it shows. The film, set over a roughly one-year period between 2002 and 2003, sweetly captures the city’s quirky character with nods to beloved local landmarks such as the mural-adorned American Market & Deli where Lady Bird buys cigarettes and a Playgirl on her 18th birthday (the store clerk featured in film actually works there). Other cameos include Thrift Town, the Crest Theatre and dive bar favorite Club Raven.
4. It’s home to all things Tower.
“Lady Bird” celebrates the city’s Tower legacy with shots of the gorgeous Tower Bridge and the historic Tower Theatre, the latter which has been showing “Lady Bird” to huge crowds crowds since the film’s opening. Sacramento was also once home to Tower Records, which closed for good in 2006. Russ Solomon founded the now-shuttered chain in 1960 when he started selling records out of his dad’s drugstore, then located next door to the Tower Theatre. In interviews Gerwig’s talked of regular trips to Tower where she bought music by the likes of Alanis Morissette, Justin Timberlake and the Dave Matthews Band—all of whom are featured in the film, of course.
5. It’s a place you want to leave—and then return to.
Oh, how Lady Bird longs to leave Sacramento. New York is so much cooler, so much more sophisticated. She’s not the first person to feel that way. Sometimes Sacramentans seem to have a complicated relationship with their city. Those raised here often dream of moving away—and do, off to bigger and supposedly better cities.
Often, though, they return, lured back home by the city’s gorgeous trees and rivers, walkable neighborhoods, and laid back vibe. If you’ve lived here you know Sacramento isn’t just a place, it’s a way of being.
Lady Bird, leaning against the American Market & Deli. Picture courtesy A24 films.