We each have nicknames given to us by loved ones. My dad always called my sister “boop” (for reasons unknown), and he called me “TFF” for “Trevor-fo-fevor;” one friend of mine went by his middle name “Xavier,” and another calls his daughter “goose.” Nicknames always become so personal because they say practically everything about the bond between the name’s owner and the name’s caller.
So what could be told about a girl who gave herself the nickname Lady Bird? One, she has high self-dependency. Two, she seeks image confidence. Three, she feels too distanced from mom and dad to accept their nicknames. Indeed, you learn even more about Lady Bird as her graduation impends- class of 2003.
Lady Bird just wants to fly away from dull old Sacramento for college on the East Coast; her disrespect upon the confused adults seems understandable enough, since 9/11 still dawdles fresh in the nation’s memory. However, Lady Bird only knows Sacramento’s restrictive side. Director/writer Greta Gerwig, along with the small production crew, pays off their united vision in a humble, down to earth fashion similar to an early 2000’s comedy. Gerwig’s often slow/often fast approach documents Lady Bird’s problems under the awkward pressure of growing up into the unknown: awareness about weight gain, knowing who her real friends are, uncertainty about sexuality, plus more you survived in your youth.
Lady Bird’s oppressive school adds but an extra layer of confusion. The familiar details of a religious institution restrict every teen’s need for self-discovery: dancers keep ten inches apart for the Holy Spirit, skirts below knee level, etc. Lady Bird expresses her attitude about the rules by the way she casually eats the communion wafers as if they were goldfish crackers.
Yet the girl’s shaky maternal bond most allows the coming of age story’s real heart to bloom. Right away the two argue in the car about college, a disagreement she ends by opening the door to the pavement. Now a pink cast on her forearm, a profanity written on toward the one she accuses as responsible, explains their whole relationship. Contrary to Lady Bird’s assumptions, mother truly loves her, as expressed through a clear balance between disciplined silence and a compassionate ear to keep Lady Bird’s head on straight. You may even notice a subtle role reversal, proving Lady Bird’s invisible likenesses to her family. So I wholeheartedly recommend Lady Bird for any mother-daughter night out.
While the script’s more personal than usual, it still comes off one-sided, mainly against Lady Bird’s overly oppressive Catholic school experience. Both inside and outside the school, Lady Bird’s rebellious actions, such as shoplifting, play either for cheap laughs or to cast a stark shadow over religion. Her two older adoptive siblings also contribute little plot importance besides forgettable reactions about her attitude. These two piercing studded emos of ethnic color should have been more down-to-earth voices of reason, ones different from the parents or teachers, but this opportunity is missed.
Gerwig’s approach predominantly passed the opportunity of true love for Sacramento as a location. Remember that song about West Virginia? A love letter about the state’s old life: older than the trees and younger than the mountains? No comparable love for the city of Sacramento resolves Lady Bird’s matters in a satisfying fashion by the end.
An added complaint goes to the crew’s decision to cast 23-year-old Saoirse Ronan to play a teenager, even though she looks too old to play someone underaged. A couple of the other actors halt the enjoyment, particularly Lucas Hedges’ (Manchester by the Sea), clumsy performance as Lady Bird’s little turtle-dove.
Although many other strong performances keep the production’s awards thirst hydrated, especially Oscar-bound Laurie Metcalf, who vigorously plays Mrs. Lady Bird. Stephen Henderson, the underrated thespian from Fences, satisfies as well as the school’s cheerful old drama coach.
So, if I had a nickname for Lady Bird, it would still embrace the initials LB, for “Loving Believability,” as you believe the low points and love the high points. Everyone itches at some desire to leave home, so we each could use a comforting soul like Lady Bird by our side.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Gerwig, Greta. “Lady Bird.” Digital image. Film Society Lincoln Center. 9 Oct 2017. Web. <https://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2017/films/lady-bird/>.
Lady Bird. A24. Web. <https://a24films.com/films/lady-bird>.
“Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Genius. Genius Media Group. Web. <https://genius.com/John-denver-take-me-home-country-roads-lyrics>.