Lady Bird: Greta Gerwig’s directorial triumph

Number 1: Lady Bird is every much as poignant, brilliant and exquisite as everyone is saying and Number 2: You need to go see this movie like now.

So I have to get one other thing off my chest, I really related to this movie. And at a surface level that doesn’t make much sense. Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is from Sacramento, California. I am from Dahlonega, Georgia (look it up). Lady Bird goes to an all girls, private catholic high school complete with nuns and uniforms. I went to a public high school, the only high school in the county with the same people I went to pre-k with. Lady Bird is frenetic, craves attention and doesn’t always seem comfortable in her skin. I was relatively quiet and kept to myself, more of a wall flower type.

And yet, I found myself in Saoirse Ronan’s Lady Bird. I found myself in her aching to create something in a place that matters, in her almost painful longing to be someone. That brashness, and need for action is apparent in the first scene when she gets in a frenzied, sudden argument with her mother about wanting to attend a college in New York despite lacking the conventional grades or money to do so. She asks why she won’t call her by her given name, given to herself; Lady Bird. The argument ends abruptly as is escalates and climaxes with Lady Bird throwing herself out of the moving car. Thus begins Lady Bird.

Ronan is at her best in this film, but I believe that is large part due to the brilliant direction from Greta Gerwig in her blazing feature-length directorial debut. Lady Bird is a coming of age story that avoids many pitfalls of a “high school movie” , or at least it presents them through Gerwig’s creative lens. Lady Bird is dreamy and romantic, but incredibly blunt about what she wants. Look no further than her audition for the school musical, Merrily We Roll Along –– a wonderful storytelling choice by the way.  She announces her name as Lady Bird, “given to me by me.” She directs herself with confidence and a brashness that is as admirable as it is reckless.

Her interactions with her friends and family are sweet, but can be fraught with self-imposed tension. She is best friends with Julie (Beanie Feldstein) a smart, self-depreciating friend who is talented but pulls herself into the background in deference to Lady Bird’s strong personality. Then there is her sweet, short-lived romance with the male lead, Danny (Lucas Hedges who is as cute as he is talented).  Of course her second, more passionate romance with the cool guy in a band, Kyle (Timothée Chalamet) who proves to have less stamina than she expected. But ultimately, the most important relationship in Lady Bird is the mother daughter relationship.

The frank, tense but with an undercurrent of affection that Lady Bird and her mother Marion have is one of the most raw, unfiltered portrayals of a mother/daughter relationship I have ever seen in a film. Marion is blunt, and straight forward with her daughter. She doesn’t try to hide their families financial situation, in fact when her husband loses her job she uses that to confront a petty tantrum her daughter is having. Lady Bird constantly feels that her mother is always cutting her down, making her be realistic despite her dreamy nature or being honest but not all that nice. In one especially touching scene, she asks her mother is she likes her. Of course Marion says, ” of course I love you.” “But why don’t you like me?” is Lady Bird’s small, resigned reply.

Typically, any movie featuring an adolescent storyline is going to have an understanding” parent and a parent that gives you shit. This trope is common and comes with certain arguments and exchanges that can be predictable. This film escapes that cliché with Gerwig’s restrained directing style, the exchanges feel completely natural. In fact, the reserved and no frills scenery and direction of this film is the real spark of magic in Lady Bird.

The small moments feel big, and in keeping with the bombastic energy of the titular character that seems perfect. The emotions are honest, the last few scenes featuring Ronan and Metcalf are so moving and will leave you pensive with a tear running down your face as you softly smile at the screen.

And I promise after you see this film you will want to do two things: Number 1: Call your mom and Number 2: See it again as soon as possible.

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