Loved by many, Lady Bird was high on my anticipation list for quite some time. I expected it to be an indie gem, thought provoking and filled with great performances, and to be completely honest, it met all my expectations. I’m a sucker for teen dramas, and even though I dislike annoying protagonists, Saoirse Ronan in the middle of Lady Bird and its atmosphere, all just worked.
There is something beautiful in the simplicity of Lady Bird, that is achieved thanks to the fact that its premise takes place in the early 00’s, right after my favourite decade the 90’s (which is basically the same). It was the time before Internet, smart phones, and Instagram models – simpler time, time where life happened around you, not in your phone or on your computer. In that context, Lady Bird works and I believe strongly that it wouldn’t work any other way. The clothes, the music, mysteriousness being cool rather than creepy, it all is sort of comforting and since I grew up in the 90’s, it’s also nostalgic.
Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), is your stereotypical teenager – she is nice at times but she’s mostly difficult. She has a very complicated relationship with her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), who she says she hates, yet highly depends on without actually acknowledging the fact. I think there is a lot of bravery put into writing such a mother-daughter relationship. It’s not a hateful relationship, but it isn’t necessarily loving either, and there’s a lot to think about while watching Christine and Marion interact. It all begins with the scene in the car, where they seem to get along well and suddenly, it’s literally jumping out of a moving car to simply get away from it all. It immediately sets a tone to the entire movie, but it takes time to completely understand these two characcters.
The entire movie is actually built upon various relationships in Christine’s life, most important are the interactions with her mother and the overall family dynamic. We have Christine’s father, Larry (Tracy Letts) who she is the most affectionate towards. There are some strong themes that are brought up in relation to Larry, but what I like the most is the fact that Christine is never harsh with him directly, and I feel like deep down, she was sort of protecting him. Her relationship with her adoptive brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues) is much more complicated, but its oddly refreshing because Miguel’s girlfriend is also always present. Yet the closest relationship in Christine’s life is probably the one she has with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein), who is warm and caring. Feldstein does a wonderful job of being the supportive friend, while also being the more vulnerable of the two. I liked how the movie approached their friendship, it showed them going through these stages of their lives and drifting apart, yet still finding ways to connect.
That brings me to the other two main relationships Christine has in this movie, one with Danny (Lucas Hedges), and the other with Kyle (Timotheé Chalamet). Two boys, completely opposite to each other, and oh how wonderfully melodramatic both these relationships ended up being. Though I must say, the way Christine acknowledged Danny after their breakup, that was the moment when I was completely won over by her. She might have been a bit of a b*tch at times (no offence), but she still cared a lot and I think Lady Bird was about finding that balance between being a badass and yet still attentive. Those scenes with Kyle though, boy, I loved those even though I saw the end-game a mile away. I wasn’t mad at it being predictable, because I’ve been there, and I totally understand the blind hope a teenage girl gets when she meets a mysterious boy with dark hair and a bad attitude.
Eventually though, the movie progresses to a tipping point and that’s what life is all about. That spiral of regret, mistakes and angst, that just explodes suddenly and you are left with this empty feeling of not knowing what to do with your life. Lady Bird is that sort of teenage journey, through different relationships and interactions, that just tells a story anyone can relate to. May it be writing down a name of a boy you like, may it be arguing with your mom and suddenly having a completely different light hearted conversation. May it be drifting further away from your best friend, and then finding your way back to her. May it be becoming 18 and buying cigarets for the first time. We have all been teenagers once, and Lady Bird simply reflects those times, with the added flare of a little more drama with that whole dramatic exit from the car.
Finally, I want to say that with a movie like Lady Bird there’s always the danger of making your protagonist just a little bit “too much”. Too much angst can be off putting, too much whining can be annoying, too many mood swings can throw the viewer off balance. Lady Bird manages to find that simple balance between all those teenager-esque qualities with moments of redemption. We have all made mistakes as teenagers, we have all said mean things without actually meaning them, but what matters is whether we learn and grow up, or we give up and stay immature for the rest of our lives. While watching Lady Bird I was constantly rooting for the protagonist, even though she sometimes annoyed me, because I was certain she was going to grow up and learn from her past. That hope kept me rooting for her, and I’m glad I did, because that’s the kind of message Lady Bird delivers – it’s okay to fuck up, if you own it, and grow the hell up.
PS: I want to say that while I liked the direction of the movie, Lady Bird’s strength for me is in its script. Gerwig is for me, a really great writer, and she has the ability to create very complex and interesting characters, and throw them into even more complicated relationships. That being said, I strongly believe that she will direct again, and she will improve, and I will always watch her movies.