Growing up is hard.
BQB here with a review of “Lady Bird.”
3.5 readers, I’ll admit it. I’m a male chauvinist pig. I put off watching this movie because I thought it would be ultra-feminist tripe, hyped up to make women feel good about themselves. Turns out, it isn’t so much about feminism as it is about the eternal struggle of every generation – that battle that comes when kids wants to spread their wings and parents feel they must clip them.
So sorry I assumed the worst about this movie. I was part of the patriarchy all along. Who knew?
In director Greta Gerwig’s (I assume semi-autobiographical) meditation on growing up in early 2000’s Sacramento, we follow the senior year in high school of Christine (Saoirse Ronan) who, in a display of the ultimate in eccentricity, takes the name “Lady Bird” and demands others refer to her this way as well.
If the genesis of the self-appointed nickname is explained, I missed it, though I got the general sense that it is one of those silly choices kids make during a time when they believe the world is wide open to them, that they’re special, unique, that they’ll be the next big thing and so it’s ok to do wacky things like re-name yourself.
Lady Bird and her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) have a love/hate relationship. One minute, they’re in a battle royale, the next minute they’re going dress shopping. Sometimes they’ll take breaks in the fighting to direct kindness towards the other.
The genesis of the fights? Lady Bird wants to study at a big name, fancy school, but lacks the grades or qualifications. Mom and Dad (Tracy Letts) are struggling to make ends meet and though Dad can never say anything negative to his little girl, Mom constantly lays down the law, informing Lady Bird there’s just no way her dreams of heading off to a big city could ever happen.
The film shows both sides of that eternal kid/parent coming of age struggle. Lady Bird is overly dramatic, perhaps too intelligent for her own good, overthinking the mundane to the point it drives her crazy. Suburban life doesn’t just bore her, it’s killing her – the sheer lack of opportunity and ability to express her creativity is too much to handle.
On the other hand, if Lady Bird’s dreams are fantasy, Mom and Dad are mired in reality. Mom is a nurse, working double shifts where she sees death and illness all day. Dad’s battling depression, having been let go from his longtime job and forced to go through the indignity of sitting through a job interview where he has to explain to a much younger, green around the gills boss how to conduct an interview. You get the impression that Dad could tell the kid to step aside and get him some coffee, but he accepts the indignity with, well, great dignity.
Yes, we even see both sides of life at the Catholic school Lady Bird attends. Lady Bird lives to question religious authority and to prank Sister Joan (Lois Smith). Yet, when Sister Joan holds the power to make Lady Bird pay for a slight, she, well I suppose in the name of Christianity, turns the other cheek.
Meanwhile, an elderly priest/drama teacher who fills his students’ with laughter and song is dying. Coincidentally, he’s a patient of Lady Bird’s mother and while he’s brought so much joy to so many, he’ll be facing death alone.
In short, the adults know how shitty life can be, especially for the unprepared. Risks and gambles rarely pay off. Like the infamous tortoise, slow and steady wins the race. Mom may seem like a bitch for trying to talk Lady Bird out of pie in the sky dreams, but then again, Mom knows that working a boring, regular job, as non-glamorous as that may be, puts food on the table and gets a mortgage paid off.
Thus, the movie makes a key point. Kids and adults both have something to say in the eternal growing up struggle. If a kid has X dream, efforts should be made to make it happen. Then again, kids have to realize all the struggles Mom and Dad do behind the scenes. Get that barista job and get in the struggle, just as your parents did before you.
Ronan (my eyes go cross when I try to spell her first name) shines while Laurie Metcalf, a staple of network television since her early days playing Aunt Jackie on “Roseanne” is finally getting some long deserved acknowledgment. Alas, in any other year, I think she would have been a shoe-in for best actress had she not been up against that other longtime, underappreciated staple of network television, Allison Janney. Both were equally deserving so I assume it was a coin toss.
In the end, I envy Lady Bird. Oh, to be young again and to look at the world as a friend, a thing of beauty to explore and not an enemy that is going to bend you over and attack your butt every chance it gets. Kids, don’t lose your childish sense of wonder as you head off in pursuit of your dreams, but do take your parents’ advice. The lumps they took might just save you from taking them.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I think the fish fucker movie is better, though I still thing Three Billboards was the best.