Release Date: November 3, 2017
Lady Bird reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite. But only if Napoleon Dynamite was set in Sacramento and focused more of the future of its titular character.
I have been meaning to see this film for a few months, but the showings have been geographically inconvenient and at weird times. Since the Oscar nominations came out last Tuesday the nominated films are back in theaters and more widely so. Anyways, that’s more than you needed to know…to sum up I finally watched Lady Bird.
This is my favorite genre of movie. “Boring dramas” as I call them. Movies where there isn’t a defined bad guy, the story isn’t driven by action or adventure, but more-so by character development and driving the story logically ahead. I enjoy these movies…the ones that develop such a relatable reality you can get lost in them.
Back to Lady Bird. This picture is set in 2002 and is a coming of age story about Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn, The Lovely Bones). She is a senior in a Catholic high school in Sacramento dealing with her lower-middle class family issues, relationships, and what the next step in her life looks like. The story covers this tumultuous time in her life during which she re-names herself Lady Bird.
Over the course of her senior year she struggles with *SPOILER ALERT* her first boyfriend (he’s gay) and her next “boyfriend” (he’s a douche), choosing between her childhood best friend and want to be part of the cool crowd, and her family relationships especially with her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf.
From the start we see their particular mother/daughter dynamic. One moment they are crying to The Grapes of Wrath on audio book and in a split second they are arguing about Lady Bird’s future. The two women are clearly a lot alike. They are both stubborn, passionate, and have strong view’s about Lady Bird’s/Christine’s future. Lady Bird wants to go to college on the east coast and her mother tells her quite bluntly that she shouldn’t leave Sacramento. At the end of the film *SPOILER ALERT* Lady Bird gets into a college in New York and her mother and father drop her off at the airport. Her father gets out with her to walk her to security, but her mother opts to stay in the car “so they don’t have to pay for parking”, but mostly because she disagrees at Lady Bird’s choice. Although, a sad moment for their relationship it is realistic.
The cinematography, style, costume design, and editing are all used to make this film as believable as possible. The director, Greta Gerwig, presents a film that feels almost gritty and unfiltered… just like real life. No ones hair and makeup are perfect, the music fits the time period, and the story is full of the little moments all of us experience, both bad and good, that make up our lives.
What was most special to me about this film is its message about mental health. None of the characters in the film are particularly happy. Some have temporary moments of happiness, but they are all dealing with something. Towards the middle of the film, *SPOILER ALERT* Lady Bird finds out from her mother (and that bottle of pills in the medicine cabinet) that her father has been struggling with depression for a lot of his life. This disillusions what she thought of her father, but it also presents the idea to the audience that depression is common and not necessarily a death sentence.
There is another point in the film where Lady Bird *SPOILER ALERT* makes up with her best friend, Julie. It’s the night of their senior prom and Lady Bird goes to Julie’s house and finds her crying on the couch. She asks her what’s wrong and Julie says:
“Some people aren’t built happy.” A few moments later they are laughing and eating cheese & crackers. Not only was I affected by this line, but I think it was pretty pivotal to the film.
In the end, Lady Bird *SPOILER ALERT*, now living on her own in New York, is able to see her mother in a clearer light. She understands her mother loves her and wants the best for her in her own way. When she calls her to thank her she does so, but once again as Christine.
As I started saying, this movie reminded me a lot of Napoleon Dynamite. It was definitely not as eccentric, but still a slow burn. It’s also didn’t have the typical clean, refined style I expect out of a Oscar nominee. While Lady Bird never muttered “freaking idiot” or anything about a Liger, this film is also about nothing… except a person and their life and relationships.
Oscar Buzz: It’s nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf), and Best Original Screenplay. Saoirse was really great in this film and so was Laurie but I don’t know if it’s enough to beat the other ladies in her category… looking at you Frances McDormand and Allison Janey. I am hopeful in the screenplay department.