Review: Lady Bird (2017)


Lady Bird poster

Lady Bird depicts the sentimental yet paradoxical bond that develops between the places in which we grow up: we hate them and often can’t wait to leave, yet pay close attention to all their idiosyncrasies and yearn for their flawed familiarities – even though we might never admit it.

Greta Gerwig’s love-hate coming-of-age drama starring Saoirse Ronan makes a point of telling the story of a high school girl, Christine (preferred name: Lady Bird), whose family have never quite been able to become socially mobile. Despite her parents’ best intentions and efforts to do the best for their children, their socio-economic status is something that has held them back and, in her mother’s (played by Laurie Metcalf) case, has caused her to become bitter, dejected and impervious to the possibility that her daughter is capable of more.

The titular character sticks out like a sore thumb in her catholic school, what with her faded pink hair, bespoke theatre roles and creative approach to getting the grades she needs for a place at a New York college. To her mother, she is a rogue delinquent, but the audience witness a distinct goodness in Lady Bird that is hard to deny. All her misdemeanours and mis-judged outbursts are endearing and symptomatic of a young girl who simply wants to prove to herself and others that she can get out of her Sacramento rut.

Although Lady Bird herself demonstrates some blemishes, it’s the men in this film that have the most defects. Romantic interests turn out to be deceitful or sanctimonious, and even her father fails in some senses. Lady Bird’s mother is the one who micro-manages the family’s finances and does the laundry in between double shifts at the hospital. She takes to her sewing machine after taking her daughter shopping at the thrift store to make sure that she still looks the part in a beautiful pre-owned dress at a thanksgiving dinner. It would be remiss not to comment on the strength of this woman, as well as remembering that no matter how brazen and hardened she appears, everything is done out of love.

One might consider Lady Bird to be the West Coast equivalent of last year’s The Florida Project. Set in 2002 and 2003, it exposes a rift and the hardships that exist within California – the ‘Golden State’ that is all too often associated with glamour and hedonism (as noted to the audience in the epigraph) – another reminder that beyond tourist traps, consumerist attractions and vulgar displays of misplaced patriotism - a certain big, blue house comes to mind - are people who are struggling.

There is no actual character who plays the antagonist in this film. Clearly, there are people who hurt Lady Bird and mistreat her, but society’s obsession with obscene, disproportionate wealth and its misconceived notion of success is the real villain here. Lady Bird feels such shame about her position in society as someone ‘on the other side of the tracks’ that she hides behind a different name, lies about her address and makes sure that she is dropped off to school out of sight so that the other kids don’t see her understated family car. Christine’s journey into adulthood serves as a pressing memento from the recent past which hopefully encourages women to follow their chosen path with aplomb, no matter who thinks they’ll never make it. Ladies and anyone else on the forgotten outskirts of society: be like Lady Bird - stand up and be the tempest that this world needs to disrupt the patriarchy.

 

Verdict: Gerwig's timely comedy drama is hard not to love unless you're someone oblivious to your privilege. Saoirse Ronan's chemistry with her on-screen mum is superb.

Overall? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Big screen appeal? 🎬🎬🎬

Accolade eligibility? 💡💡💡💡

Study-worthy? 📚📚📚📚📚

 

Director: Greta Gerwig

UK release date: 16th February 2018

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