It seemed pretty coincidental that I finally watched Frances Ha just a few days before I went to see today’s film Lady Bird- Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut. Both stories are inspired by Greta’s real life, but Lady Bird serves as a more semi-autobiographical film. The film was highly anticipated, with strong debuts at Telluride and Toronto- closing to a standing ovation at the latter. The hype was not misplaced in the case of this film. So far, it has had the best limited opening (per theater average) for 2017 and the highest of all time for a female director. While Greta Gerwig has been an indie darling in front of the camera for years, she may have found even greater status behind the camera.
DIRECTOR & WRITER: Greta Gerwig
STARRING: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet
Set in Greta Gerwig’s cozy hometown of Sacremento, California, Lady Bird is an atypical coming-of-age story that hits all the right notes. Although its subject matter is nothing new, it never fails to be repetitive and manages to give fresh insight into the world of an angsty teenage girl. Right off the bat, we see that Christine McPherson- who has renamed herself Lady Bird is a rebel, and strong-willed young woman. She is perfectly embodied by Soairse Ronan, who Greta Gerwig rightfully waited on for six months while she completed another project.
Lady Bird exists within the 2002-2003 school year- Lady Bird’s senior year in high school. She attends a small but prestigious Catholic school on scholarship. Unlike most of her peers, Lady Bird comes from a working class family who’s amidst financial woes. Like any teenage girl, she’s concerned with acceptance. Aware of this, Lady Bird’s overbearing mother Marion constantly reminds her of their struggles and Lady Bird’s faults, but pushes Lady Bird to be a better version of herself.
Lady Bird and her best friend Julie find comfort in their school’s drama club- where Lady Bird has a brief whirlwind relationship with fellow drama club member Danny. Their relationship is fleeting however. Lady Bird then moves on to another relationship with a moody hearthrob named Kyle. This leads her to compromise her friendship with Julie in attempts to fit in more with the “it” crowd. She temporarily bonds with the school’s resident cool girl Jenna despite their lack of anything in common. Still not having found her place, Lady Bird finds nothing but disappointment.
Similar to Frances Ha, the protagonist is squashed by reality in her efforts to follow a dream. Marion suggests that Lady Bird attend state university 30 minutes away, and a guidance counselor discourages Lady Bird from applying to more liberal colleges on the East Coast. Also due to McPherson’s financial situation, Lady Bird is put in her place.
Bored with the suburban bubble in Sacremento, Lady Bird dreams of going to New York City even though she’s never been. Her route of escape is through admission to a university there. Even though Lady Bird’s school record is mediocre and despite Marion’s pending disapproval, she sends applications anyway. Unknown to Marion, Lady Bird is accepted to a waitlist for Columbia. She later gains an acceptance to the university and moves to New York City. Marion is broken-hearted, but struggles to express her feelings to Lady Bird.
What this film does well is show the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters. Marion is a bit harsh at times (especially in comparison to her husband Larry- the “Nice Guy”) but she only wants to look after Lady Bird. This film in some ways reminded me a bit of Real Women Have Curves. While the mother in the film was a bit toxic, it still had some of the same groundwork. She as overbearing and protective, and struggles to come to terms with her daughter going away to start her own life…Actually both protagonists end up going to New York City and studying at Columbia. In Lady Bird, we get a different ending. Ana (from Real Women Have Curves) struts down Times Square- walking like a lady as her mother told her to. She then walks off screen, and the rest of what happens is open for interpretation. In Lady Bird, the title character walks through New York City- still looking for meaning it seems. After a rough night, Lady Bird walks into a church and revels in a choir’s song.
When Lady Bird gains the independence she desperately sought in New York City, she reminisces about her family and Sacramento. While Lady Bird initially felt a sense of disdain towards her hometown, distance from it brought forth a feeling of nostalgia and love. Despite where you come from, most of the time there is a sense of hometown pride. There’s a saying, “Home is where the heart is.” Home is where family is. Home is a place of happy memories. Home is where you grow.
Lady Bird is a great film to bond over with your mother and your friends. Take some time to go see it.
Thank you for reading,
ADRIANA, THE CINEMA SOLOIST