Movie Review: Lady Bird

Tonight launched seven days of movie watching at my local theater, as I accomplish something I’ve never done before. I am viewing all nine of the Best Picture nominated films, ahead of the Academy Awards, which airs next Sunday evening.

Here is the list of nominees:

The Shape of Water


Lady Bird

Phantom Thread

Darkest Hour

The Post

Call Me By Your Name

Get Out

I saw The Shape of Water and Dunkirk before this amazing opportunity arose, to see all of the nominated movies on the big screen. Tonight, I viewed Lady Bird.

Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, Timothee Chalamet and Jordan Rodrigues. This comedy drama, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, carries an R rating, for adult themes including language and brief nudity, and has a run time of 1 hour and 34 minutes. Lady Bird is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Ronan) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Metcalf).

The year is 2002 and Christine McPherson (Ronan), who has given herself the name Lady Bird, is a senior at the Catholic High School in Sacramento, California. Lady Bird is an old soul…artistic, creative, fiercely independent…who longs for more than the life her parents live on “the wrong side of the tracks”.

Her dad, Larry (Letts), a gentle man who has struggled with depression for years, has just been laid off from his job. Her mom, Marion (Metcalf), a tough woman who works double shifts at the psychiatric hospital, seems hard on her daughter. They rarely agree on anything. And Lady Bird’s older adopted brother, Miguel (Rodrigues), has moved back home, bringing his girlfriend with him. The slightly dysfunctional family shares a small crowded house with one bathroom.

Lady Bird wants to get out of Sacramento, a town she finds stifling, calling it the “midwest of California”. She dreams of attending an artsy college in New York City, drawing her mother’s ire and criticism. With the help of her more understanding father, Lady Bird secretly applies to colleges in the east, including several in NYC.

Lady Bird and her best friend, Julie (Feldstein), attend classes in their strict school, audition for parts in a musical, and spend much time discussing boys, life and their futures. The two relationships she enters into during her last year in high school, with fellow thespian Danny (Hedges), and musician Kyle (Chalamet), don’t unfold as she had hoped. She discovers Danny is gay, and fears coming out to his family, while Kyle is so indifferent to her and the things she cares about that she can’t create a deeper connection with him.

At the core of the movie are two more crucial relationships…the one between a daughter and her mother, and the one Lady Bird is creating with herself.

This was a wonderful film, funny on the surface, and heart stirring on a deeper level. Anyone over the age of 20 can watch this coming of age movie and connect with it. The teen years are so hard as we struggle to find our way through school and relationships and figuring out what we want to do next. My heart ached, watching Lady Bird sort through it all.

I’ve been the teenaged daughter…and I’ve been the mom of teenagers. I could relate to both characters. I wanted to hug Lady Bird and sit with her and say “take your time…you don’t have to figure it all out at once…stay true to yourself”. And I wanted to put an arm around Marion and say “ease up on your kid…listen to her and trust her…give her space to grow”. Fear drove this mom to push her daughter, while also attempting to keep her close. She wanted better for her child, and yet she wanted Lady Bird to appreciate what she had and be grateful.

Lady Bird asked her mother if she liked her…not loved her, she assumed that…but did her mom like who she was? Marion skirted the question by replying that she just wanted Lady Bird to be the very best possible version of herself. “What if this is the best version?” Lady Bird asks. Wow.

I realized as I watched the story unfold that Lady Bird didn’t so much hate the town she lived in or the family she had. She was trying to find the place where she fit in. Isn’t that all of our stories? It’s not about what we appear to be running from, but what we are running toward. And when our journey takes us deeper within, to discover who we are and where we belong, then we are headed in the right direction.

Whether we are 18, or 38, or 58…we all experience coming of age moments that shift our lives. I appreciate the movie Lady Bird, for helping me to think about mine.

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