Lady Bird is a dramedy about the intricacies of life for a lower-middle-class family, and it is genuinely fantastic in its depiction. This film takes a story that could have been ripped out of thousands of young people’s lives across the country and makes it feel unique and important despite its small scale. The director, Greta Gerwig (Jackie, 20th Century Women), clearly has a firm grasp of teenage behavior as well as relationships between parents and their children, and she showcases her understanding in this fantastic film.
To put it simply, Lady Bird is the story of a girl who lives in Sacramento, Calif. going through the ups and downs of her senior year of high school. She wants to get away from Sacramento because she hates how quiet and boring it is, and strives to be accepted into a school in a different part of the country. So, she uses her last year of childhood to bring out a rebellious side of herself and try to fully enjoy what she believes to be the end of her time in California.
No topic of the turn from adolescence to adulthood is off limits in this film. Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who goes by Lady Bird, falls in love, hangs her friends out to dry, goes behind her parents’ backs, experiments with drugs and sex, cheats in school, and participates in just about every other stereotypical teenage activity one could think of. Other characters question their sexuality, cope with severe depression, and deal with embarrassment about being poor in comparison to others in their town. Lady Bird is a no-holds-barred examination of both teenage life and lower-middle-class life, and Gerwig’s ability to interweave the two topics in an organized way makes this film both amusing and touching.
The cast in Lady Bird keeps the film together, because both the script and the direction of the movie push the story along at a rapid-fire pace. Without the phenomenal actors familiarizing themselves with their characters so well, this film might have been unable to maintain the speed at which it progresses. The movie flies through the year because it takes little more than a single scene with each main character to understand who they are and what they’re all about. The audience already knows just about everything there is to know about Lady Bird and her mother (Laurie Metcalf) within the first minute of the first scene of the film because of their on-screen chemistry.
The actors were not the only factor in the strength of the film. Gerwig directed and wrote the film, giving it a unified full creative direction. It’s hard not to stress enough how in touch with each other the acting and directing were in this film—because of this, the audience quickly becomes attached to the characters. Their ups and downs make the viewer smile and cry because they were written like real people who make understandable decisions and react to events in their life in believable ways—the film’s power is its ability to depict people as people instead of as characters.
Because the characters feel like actual people, the emotional portions of the movie actually hit home. This film does a fantastic job of making the audience feel two things: homesickness and love for their mothers. The attachment Lady Bird realizes she has for her hometown of Sacramento and the homage she gives it toward the end of the film can make even the most travelled of people nostalgic about their childhood home. Lady Bird’s relationship with her mother is dicey at best, but it is obvious they both care greatly about each other whether or not they show it. This film will make you call your mother and tell her you love her, and that sort of emotional impact is exactly what makes Lady Bird great.
Featured Image by A24 Films