Five Nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress,
Best Suppporting Actress and Best Director
Directed by Greta Gerwig
Ah, mothers and daughters. This is something I know a little bit about. And high school classes, teachers and kids? Yup. A bit of experience there, too. So when I saw Lady Bird, a cinematic bildungsroman that incorporates all of these elements, I felt right at home. This is because, at one time or another in my life, I have played most of these parts—young, old, mother, daughter, teacher, student—even drama coach.
I have never been a nun, though—or a rich person. Full disclosure.
This is a girls’ movie. The women here are all people we know and the boys are mostly stereotypical jerks. Lady Bird’s dad is OK, but even he plays the formulaic pushover dad living in the middle of constant mother-daughter turmoil. He can defy his wife, but not his headstrong daughter. That makes him a good guy in the eyes of daughters everywhere. Moms, not so much.
At the center of it all is Christine who has rechristened herself Lady Bird for reasons only clear to her. She hates her hometown and she wants to have sex. She pranks her teachers and cheats in math. She is the working class kid in a private Catholic school full of rich kids. She tries on an assortment of personae, loves/hates her mom and betrays her best friend. As she slogs through her senior year and applies to colleges, all she wants is to go to school in New York—a feat for which she lacks the money, the grades and the support from anyone in her sphere except, of course, her dad.
All of this sounds pretty typical. So why does Lady Bird stand out? Performance, performance, performance. Gerwig’s script has been nominated for Best Original Screenplay, it’s true. And it does work to hoist the senior-year-teenage-angst story up from its seat at the back of the cafeteria, but it’s the performances, mostly that of Laurie Metcalf, that make this film Oscar-worthy. Who knew that Roseanne’s sister and Sheldon’s mom would break out is such a big way? As the long-suffering, overworked mom who’s trying to give her daughter a solid footing in reality, Metcalf’s Marion shines. Marion makes mistakes in her dealings with Lady Bird, for sure, but she is true to her ideals and strong in her stance, even when she is the one most hurt by it. Her love for her daughter is unmistakable and deep. We can see it even though her daughter doesn’t. Mothers will agree. Daughters—well, they’ll get there.
And herein lies the beauty of the film. It gets you where you live. I can sympathize with mom because, even though she is always critical and sometimes hurtful, I get her. I am her sometimes. Young women who love/hate their moms (or should I just say “young women” and assume that the rest is understood) can sympathize with Lady Bird as she fields the maternal barbs and tries to do things her own way. I was her once, too, only worse, so now I nod knowingly and wonder when logic and understanding will overtake her rebellious, hormone-addled self. Soon, I hope.
Saoirse Ronan is delightfully and maddeningly adolescent. Tracey Letts as her dad is a comfort in the madness. Laurie Metcalfe brings to life a woman who never stops trying to make the truth as she sees it clear to her daughter, regardless of the havoc this wreaks on the family. In one way or another, it’s every family who ever lived.
See Lady Bird. You will find your past, present or future self hiding somewhere in this film. Maybe all three. It’s worth the look.