By Xeres Jasmine Guia
The film has been nominated 187 times, most recently by the Academy Awards, has won 83 awards and is the best-reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes edging out previous title-holder Toy Story 2.
The year is palindromic 2002 and Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is at the height of her rebellious and confusing teenage years. She goes to a Catholic school that she does not particularly like, has a mother who drives her crazy, and finds herself, often through her own actions, in the usual coming-of-age situations.
Do not take it the wrong way, though, the film is definitely far from typical. It is not just another American teenage comedy. The awards do not lie – “Lady Bird” is an ordinary story about an angsty teenage girl extraordinarily-written by writer-director Greta Gerwig. Add to the winning mix of an excellent screenplay and brilliant direction Gerwig is nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Direction for her directorial debut – are the masterful portrayals of all the film’s cast, most notably Saoirse Ronan as the titular character, and her mother, Marion, played by Laurie Metcalf. The wonderful chemistry of the two main characters makes for an interesting but not wholly unfamiliar mother-daughter dynamic.
Christine, who wants to be called Lady Bird, is a seventeen-year-old girl who wants to leave boring Sacramento, California to go to exciting New York for college. She feels stuck in her life in the state capital and craves adventure far from it. She is a poster child for the search of joie de vivre, firm in her belief that the “joy of living” will be found anywhere else but home. Like a caged bird, if you will. Her mother Marion, though, believes the opposite – she tells Lady Bird that she should stay in-state and does not approve of her desire to fly far away from the nest. The contentious relationship of mother and child is straightforwardly presented; it is humorous at times, yes, but packs a punch every single time the screen sees Marion and Lady Bird go at it.
At one point, Lady Bird confesses to her mother that she wished her mother liked her, to which Marion said, “of course, I love you” which the former rebutted by asking “but, do you like me”. Marion is caught off-guard by the question, takes some time to reply and says, “I want you to be the very best version of yourself.” This scene alone can encapsulate the complexity of the relationship and the beautiful way it was written in the film. Anyone who has a mother or is a mother would be familiar with the storyline.
As Lady Bird battles with her mother, she finds a friend in her beloved father, Larry. Played by Tracy Letts, Larry is the proverbial buffer between the two with his wife often accusing him of being “the good cop” all the time. He is fully supportive of his daughter’s pricey desires, even if he is having trouble looking for a new job after being laid off and money is considerably tight.
Lady Bird’s best friend is Julie, played by Beanie Feldstein. The former dumps the latter midway through the story for the chance to be friends with the popular kids only to realize later on the age-old truth that the cool kids are not always necessarily cool and her unpopular best friend is worth more than the lot of them combined.
Lady Bird finds love and quickly learns that heartbreak and heartache inevitably come with it. She awkwardly discovers sex, smokes and learns to drive. She is a self-centered big dreamer whose insecurities and naïvete are exposed as she navigates her way through her last year in high school, and her burgeoning adult years. She gets lost in finding her niche, her life’s adventure, and ultimately, herself, as young adults tend to do. She achieves what she wanted – to go to New York for college, to leave home only to learn that home and what she left behind are the very things that shaped and made her the person that she is.
“Lady Bird” is a must-see film for it is unpretentious in its offering of a story that most everyone can and will relate to. It is set to hit select theaters on February 28. Bring your moms when you watch and prepare to laugh, and cry, together at this gem of a movie about each and every one of us at age 18.