We drove to Casa Grande to see one more film in our attempt to see all the Academy Award nominated films. This time we saw Lady Bird our 4th movie in 3 weeks. And all 4 were great. My faith in movies is renewed. Of course it helps that none of these films had a super hero. I don’t think I need to see one more superhero.
The film is a coming-of-age story from the point of a view of a bright, lively, rebellious, and far from perfect 17 year old girl, Christine, (who gave herself the name Lady Bird because she wanted a name of her own, not one given by her parents). It was minor rebellion, but not her last. The film was written and directed by Greta Gerwig who deserves an immense amount of credit cinematic gem.
Saoirse Ronan, the star of last year’s Brooklyn, which we also enjoyed in Arizona, plays Lady Bird. The central core of this movie is her difficult and complicated relationship with her mother whom she clearly loves, though not without challenges.
The movie opens with a scene in which the 2 have been on a car trip looking at colleges. Mother (played by Laurie Metcalfe) and daughter are both crying over the final passages of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. We get the impression that these two have a great ideal relationship. That feeling is quickly dissolved as they argue over which college Ladybird should go. Lady Bird wants to go out east where there is culture, not Sacramento, her hometown, which is “the Midwest of California.” The ride ends with a shock. Not a happy shock.
I loved the scene where mother and daughter were shopping together in a department store for a special dress. They constantly bicker and argue until the mother spots a great dress and Lady Bird is instantly ecstatic. This reminded me of another great movie, The Commitments, in which the band was constantly arguing until they got on stage and played music that was magic. All dissension melted away in the beauty of the songs.
Lady Bird’s best friend, Julie, is played by Beanie Feldstein. Their relationship is also complicated. Life is never simple except in the Hallmark movies. There is a wonderful scene where the two of them wolf down a whole box of communion wafers as if they were fast food. Perhaps they are fast food? They play a great trick on the nun who is principal of the school, when they tie a “Just Married to Jesus” sign on the back of her car. After Lady Bird dumps her friend for a more popular friend Julie points out that she is a “moron in a deeper sense.” Not in the ordinary sense of someone like Donald Trump I suppose.
Lady Bird also has an interesting relationship with a seemingly perfect boy friend, Danny, played by Lucas Hedges, until she discovers he is more interested in boys than girls. At a school dance, when they are dancing too close, the nun walks by and says, “Leave 6 inches for the Holy Spirit,” which I have learned is what the Nuns always said.
Her second choice of a boyfriend is hardly better. That is Kyle played by Timothée Chalamet. He is a listless cad who deceives her into thinking that he is losing his virginity with her as she is with him. When he admits she is his 6th , Lady Bird starts to cry. She says to him, I wanted it (her first sex) to be special. He asks, “Why? You’re going to have so much unspecial sex in your life.”
When Kyle comes to pick her up to take her to the prom, he stays in the car car and honks his horn. Her father asks Lady Bird, “You won’t go to a guy who honks for you will you?” Sadly, showing her rebelliousness is not yet complete, she does run to him. Her individuality has limits. Those limits are shown again when the cool kids say lets skip the prom and Lady Bird, obviously disappointed, acquiesces in order to be cool. Fortunately she later asserts herself and goes with her best friend Julie instead. The rebel matures.
Lady Bird thinks that she has already finished the learning part of High School, but this is far from true. With her friends she learns that smoking, drinking, and sex aren’t all they’re cracked up to be either.
I also loved the scene with the Nun principal, who had read her essay to get into college. The Nun told her, “It’s clear how much you love Sacramento.” This comes as a surprise to Lady Bird (and me and probably all viewers who have learned how frustrated she is about her home town). Lady Bird has a thoughtful reply: “I guess I pay attention.” To which the wise Sister replies, “Don’t you think they’re the same thing?”
All in all I loved the movie about a young girl who was able to confront the fears that so many of us have. And not just young people either. have: Fear of not being accepted. Fear of not being loved. Fear of the future. Fear of failure. Fear of not pleasing your loving parents. Lady Bird makes missteps, but she shines. She shines for us all, lighting the way, because we all need more light and more bravery.