Much like making it to the end of the film, finishing this review will be an emotional triumph for me. Lady Bird put me into a time machine. For an hour and a half, I existed vicariously in a different time and place that was so similar to my own life once.
Coming-of-age stories tend to glamorize actually coming of age. Refreshingly, this one neglects that approach for one that is gracious in its inelegance.
Marion and Larry (Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts, respectively) — Mar and Lar, as I call them — are heading a household in which their heavily pierced son, Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues), his equally holey girlfriend, Shelly (Marielle Scott), and their daughter, Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), miraculously coexist.
Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) — a name which she has bestowed upon herself — is on the verge of high school graduation, facing the paramount choices every almost-adult must; she could play it safe and attend community college or risk it all for whatever’s behind door number 3.
A realist with her heart in the right place, her mother discourages any of Lady Bird’s lofty ambitions of attending a decent college, especially after Larry is laid off. LB’s solace exists in high school theater, the dreamboat star thespian, Danny (Lucas Hedges), her BFF Julie’s (Beanie Feldstein) predictable self-deprecation, and fleeing Sacramento for greener pastures.
This film is a transcendent experience. The viewer doesn’t necessarily only find common ground with the titular Lady Bird, but with so many of its rich characters. It is intrinsically cast, making these quirky little slightly misshapen pieces form a Kintsugi sort of whole.
This movie mirrored instances in my life so closely that I had to side-eye Writer/Director Greta Gerwig a little bit. I think she’s been following me. One scene — in the supermarket — shows Lady Bird having the guts to walk right up to Danny and talk to him with heavy eye contact and everything.
My high school crush worked at our grocery store and my mother always had to strike up conversation with him for me. Humiliating at the time, I can see now that those moments are cornerstones in becoming a person in this world.
All of the treasures that adolescence holds are represented; pressure to be cool, fear of rejection, other-worldly elation after a first kiss, and imploding after your first real heartbreak. Amid the tragedy of youth is the presence of the calamity that exists throughout adulthood and well into old age, as well.
The idea that coming of age happens when we’re young is debunked a bit. The only character in this film who isn’t transitioning any longer and appears sure of herself is stage and screen legend Lois Smith’s.
While my favorite actor of all time, Laurie Metcalf, drew me to this film, the entire cast filled my heart. As your resident score junkie, my face lit up at Jon Brion’s name in the opening credits. The score he composed to accompany Lady Bird on her journey is like one of those intricate garnishes on an elegant dish; a radish sliced perfectly to resemble a rose.
Lady Bird is charming and wistful. It struck a range of emotions in me that was perhaps wider than I’d experienced in one sitting before. One of the warm-ups LB’s theater group does is introduced by their teacher, Father Leviatch (Stephen Henderson), as a game called Whoever Cries First Wins.