“Lady Bird” Is A Beautiful Coming of Age Tale Anchored By Saoirse Ronan
I remember moments of hearing about my sister growing up. I am 8 years older than her, but I remember hearing about all the bonding she would do with my mom. I also remember hearing about some of those intense knock out drag out fights. Not every coming of age story is the same, but Lady Bird explores the end of adolescence, and exploration of young adulthood with the the pitch perfect amount of snark, hormones, and love.
Christine, or as she calls herself Lady Bird, lives in Sacramento and we get to see her live out her senior year in high school. Lady Bird is trying to fit it all before she has to face the doll drums of adulthood like her brother who went to UC Davis and is now working at a grocery store with his wife. You get to watch her take part in a play, learn what it means to be a daughter and a friend, and to grow up.
Greta Gerwig’s first directorial feature was Nights and Weekends, but this is her first solo directed/written film. Gerwig sets the film in 2002, and the only thing interesting about this year as Lady Bird says is that the year is a palindrome. While this may be true in Lady Bird’s mind, Gerwig uses this time period as a perfect back drop. Gerwig explores a post 9/11 America and the impact it had on young people as they grew up.
One of the fascinating ways you see this impact is in the connection Lady Bird has to her mother and her hometown. Lady Bird would be my age today, and like a true millennial, there is a hope to get out of your home town and explore places like New York, while trying to be the best you can be for your parents. One of the greatest components to her “coming of age” story is the connection she has with her mother Marion, played by the fantastic Laurie Metcalf. Metcalf is stunning in this role and gives one of my favorite performances I have seen this year. Marion hopes to keep her family close while hoping Lady Bird grows up and represents her family in the best way possible.
Lady Bird describes Sacramento as the “midwest of California.” Lady Bird dreams of escaping, but yet also realizes that even though you think you out grow a place, there are moments where she realizes its the places that has helped make her who she is, that has provided her with friendships, and also fostered her adulthood. Gerwig who is from Sacramento (and you can tell) puts a lot of detail into how this city forms Lady Bird and also how she dreams to escape.
Lady Bird daydreams about living in the beautiful house in the neighborhood that is “not on the wrong side of the tracks” with her best friend Julie. Lady Bird is in part ashamed of her family and their socio economic status; she does not even realize her father, played by the utterly fantastic Tracy Letts, is depressed because he lost his job. This was another component Lady Bird explores in that post 9/11 coming of age for adulthood. Lady Bird wants to do her own thing. Be a child/young adult but can’t help but see people struggling in her own family.
Gerwig’s smart direction, and script are solidified by a brilliant ensemble with fantastic performances, but the titular Lady Bird, played by the amazing Saoirse Ronan makes this film. Ronan captures the beauty, angst, and love every young woman must navigate as she moves toward adulthood. Ronan has so much heart in every performance she gives and there is so much depth and range in every moment she provides. This is without a doubt one of the best performances she has ever given.
Overall, Lady Bird is a love letter to young women growing up and the journey they experience.