Lady Bird is this year's big “coming of age” superstar as Saoirse Ronan dazzles the screen as a spunky and difficult senior in high school who hates her family dynamic, rebels against her religious schooling, and of course is infatuated by any boy who breathes in her proximity. However, as a film that has garnered an exponentially high amount of “perfect” reviews, Lady Bird goes way beyond the cookie cutter, 3 act structure in the “coming of age” film department. Helmed by first-time solo director Greta Gerwig and her own script at her disposal, Lady Bird is worth a very, very close look.
What Is It Really About?: Lady Bird can easily be labeled as this year’s Edge of Seventeen but that is not fair to what Greta Gerwig was actually writing about in the script. On the surface, Lady Bird (Ronan) is spitting image of any other millennial American. And her mother, played so well by Laurie Metcalf, could be generalized as the anti-creative parent that so often these types of films paint as the “old way of thinking”. Lady Bird is desperate to live through some kind of life-altering event. She makes decisions in the film that seem to be irrational and almost reflexive in order to discover life's next high. This is where Gerwig’s hidden protagonist really takes form. The film is set in 2002, only 11 months after the events of 9/11. The film is also set in Sacremento, California. A state with a large number of people trying to get into college and find work. Throughout the film there are subtle conversations driven by fear of terrorism, going to an airport, skyrocketing unemployment rates, the difficulties of “baby boomers” finding work in the 21st century - the age of technology, young people concerned with the operations of the United States, and the forever dooming growth of American mental illness. That is a lot. And all of the teenage drama that Lady Bird experiences are just a red herring for how much of an impact the early 2000s were on everyone else in the country whose major issues did not concern who to go with to prom. But still, Lady Bird is living through this major moment in American history. Only when she becomes older will she realize the impact of 9/11 and the socioeconomic crisis that America was thrown into and how it affected her opportunities during high school, her social skills, and her college availability. To put it simply, Lady Bird is a period piece - which is so odd to say about a film that is set only 15 years ago.
Still Great at Face Value: Lady Bird really must be considered a period piece before anything else. But that still is not to say it is not an amazing story about a struggling teen and her relationship with a seemingly cold mother. These are the focuses of the film that complete the disruptive ripple of the events in the time period. The techniques in which dialogue-heavy scenes are filmed illustrate a level of realism that barely a handful of films this year were able to achieve. Anyone can relate to Lady Bird and her desire to fit in and cast away the culture of her household. That is the accessibility of Gerwig's script and Ronan’s performance.
Forgiveness: Every character in this story has at least one, if not several, moments where they switch from being easy to love to being easy to hate with all your heart. Lady Bird, her mother, and even her best friend are all despicable humans at some point in this film. But they all redeem themselves. Everyone in the film is trying to survive on their own and it makes them all hateful. It is the most human sequence we can go through. The important thing is forgiveness. This underlying religious theme that Lady Bird and her culture worship once a week becomes possibly the most important and emotional tool in the entire film.
Lady Bird is a massive achievement in storytelling as it unravels a difficult time in America's recent past while focusing on the seemingly simple life of a young woman. Lady Bird is a must see with plenty of lessons to teach and questions to ask moving forward.