Synopsis: A high school student lurches through her senior year, experiencing heart-break and triumphs
Lady Bird: Brat or Heroine? That’s the essay question you have to respond to after seeing Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age tale. The movie is sweet and salty, so you’ll probably embrace it whether you like the title character or not.
Lady Bird, played with splendor and bite by Saoirse Ronan, is a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California in 2002. Her stressed out mom Marion, personified by the excellent Laurie Metcalf, supports the family working long hours as a psychiatric nurse. She struggles to find positive things to say to her forceful and impractical daughter. Mild-mannered dad, Larry (Tracy Letts), strives to make peace in the family while looking for a job.
While Lady Bird’s family’s finances are wobbly, she is still able to attend private school and her parents are planning to finance her tuition at an in-state public university. So,
not having to contend with poverty, she can wrestle with typical teen problems like finding one’s identity and chasing after a crush.
It is inspiring how Lady Bird boldly throws herself into life and relationships. But she is really self-centered and sneaky. Let’s discuss her life choices to help you decide if she is a brat or up-and-coming heroine. First, her name… like a brat, our protagonist has christened herself Lady Bird, throwing off the shackles of her parents-given name, Christine. It’s a fact that giving yourself a nickname is obnoxious. On the other hand, she later admits that her parents did okay naming her.
Lady Bird is an indifferent student, but tells her advisor that she’d like to apply to someplace like Yale, but not actually Yale, since she probably couldn’t get in. Her advisor laughs and assures her that she definitely couldn’t get in. Harsh! Undeterred, she veers away from California schools because what she really wants is to go to an East Coast school and get some culture, if not in NYC, at least in Connecticut. She’s determined to escape Sacramento, which she refers to as the Midwest of California. Hmm, she does have a point on that.
Like a brat, she feels entitled to a private East Coast school and life experience that her parents let her know they can’t afford. Lady Bird and her mom are often at loggerheads because her mom thinks she’s frivolous and irresponsible. Lady Bird hates how her mom doesn’t care about her dreams or accept her as she is. When Lady Bird screams at her mom that she will pay back every penny it cost to raise her, her mom shuts her down by telling her that she seriously doubts she’ll ever get a job good enough to do so. Ouch! Lady Bird does get a job at a café though, which is good because she longs for magazines but her mom says: No, buying magazines is for rich people and we’re not rich.
At school, Lady Bird crushes on the cool kid crowd and ditches her best friend, Julie, a supportive and down-to-earth person. Pretty bratty. On the other hand, she does shunt aside her hurt pride at one point to comfort a friend in need. And she starts to miss Julie…
LB does work hard to find herself. She tries out theater, clove cigarettes and hair dye. She also offers up alternate stories to peers and teachers, aka, lies. That’s not right, you brat! I thought. But then, who am I to judge? I was a teen myself and would not want writer-director Greta Gerwig to put my senior year on-screen.
There’s a beautiful sequence in the movie that begins with a nun/teacher praising Lady Bird’s college essay that references Sacramento. She continues that her observations betray what sounds like a love for the city. I guess I pay attention, LB allows. The nun suggests that love and attention can be the same thing. Cut to Lady Bird’s mom taking her prom dress shopping. The two squabble and LB demands to know if her mom likes her. Her bedraggled mom rolls her eyes and replies that of course she loves her.
I wanted to rush into the store and do an intervention. Lady Bird, tell your mom you love her! Lady Bird’s Mom, tell your daughter you’re proud of her!
So that’s what the movie’s like, you get involved with the characters. Whether you think Lady Bird is a brat or future heroine. Can she be both?
An aside to my mom: Sorry, for any time I was a bratty teen. I ❤ U
Cut to the Chase: Funny dialogue, great acting from everybody
Comedy Highlight: The stupid ramblings and philosophizing of Kyle, Lady Bird’s rich boy crush