REVIEW: Greta Gerwig Triumphs with Her Directorial Debut of “Lady Bird”

You may know thirty-four-year-old Greta Gerwig as an actress, starring in films such as 20th Century Women and her co-written movies (with partner Noah Baumbach) like Frances Ha and Mistress America. However, this month, Gerwig stepped behind the camera with the release of her directorial debut, Lady Bird.

Photo Credit: Elle

The film stars Saoirse Ronan as Catholic high school senior Christine McPherson, who now goes by the name ‘Lady Bird.’ Taking place in the early 2000s, Christine/Lady Bird wants to move far away from her hometown of Sacramento, California. Her goal is to make it to the East Coast, “where culture is.” Her mother (Laurie Metcalf) thinks it’s both too far and expensive and pushes her to apply to the in-state colleges.

With her father just laid off from work, Lady Bird and her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) are creative with their lack of extra cash. They eat the school’s communion wafers for snacks and spend their time after school looking at their favorite houses in Sacramento. Lady Bird’s favorite is a bright blue one.

The two also decide to try out for her school’s theater production, which Lady Bird has only just found out about. There she meets Danny O’Neill (Lucas Hedges), and they quickly become a couple. When he invites her over for Thanksgiving dinner at his Grandmother’s house, she is delightedly surprised to find out it is the bright blue house that she loves so much. Though she tells Danny that she lives on the wrong side of the tracks, she is satisfied with her new life and the experiences that come with it.

But when her seemingly perfect relationship does not work out, she more than ever has the desire to separate herself from her boring middle-class life at home. She believes that she has let many of life’s opportunities pass her by, and she is not about to miss out on anymore. She decides to quit theater and begins to hang out with a different crowd, experiments with boys, and begins to tell people she actually lives in that bright blue house.

Photo Credit: LA Times

Filmed on location in Sacramento, the movie portrays the beauty of the city that Lady Bird is unable to recognize at first. Gerwig’s coming-of-age story is loosely based on her own life as a Catholic school girl living in Sacramento. She explained in an interview with Elle on how the film is a tribute to home “and how it’s something that you can’t understand until you’re leaving.”

Like many coming-of-age films, Gerwig explores ideas of friendship, family bonds, and love. However, this is not typical to most in any way. Instead, Gerwig uses these common themes and exhibits them in new ways. The film realistically portrays stories that many young women can relate to. The audience watches as Lady Bird experiences her first boyfriend, a meaningless first time, problems with her relationship with her mother, financial issues, and a longing to be away from home. Finally, Hollywood has been given a coming-of-age story that does not focus on a girl trying to find love, another reason why we need more women directors creating true women’s stories.

The movie even incorporates other various, engaging stories, such as a character being too scared to come out to his Catholic family and the theater director facing problems with depression. Gerwig does not limit her story to just Lady Bird and her difficulty in understanding herself, but rather the film introduces and sympathizes with characters from all walks of life.

Ronan, in one of her best performances yet, makes the film all that more relatable. As maybe an extreme embodiment of the quirky high school teenager, she finds a medium in her role with which anyone could connect. While even supporting actors like Hedges, Chalamet, Feldstein, and Rush portrayed the typical high school stereotypes, Gerwig reveals a new, additional side to these conventional teens that most directors leave out.

Of course, Metcalf’s performance cannot be overlooked. She perfectly shows the difficult yet important relationship between a mother and daughter that coming-of-age films sometimes lack. More than anything else, this is a film about a mother’s love, despite how challenging it is between arguments, differences, and eventually, moving away.

Though the audience is faced with all of these individuals and their heavy stories, the relatability of Lady Bird is extremely comical. From the awkwardness in her first relationship to the on and off fighting with her mom, Gerwig is able to find the perfect balance in this dramedy. The beauty of this movie is how it can make viewers both cry and laugh within a matter of seconds, comparable to how life just sometimes is.

Gerwig’s movie is more than just a coming-of-age film as it steps past boundaries that show the truth about being a teenager. These are characters we actually know from our families and school, yet they are uncovered as more than just the theater kid, the popular girl, and the strict mom. Gerwig acknowledges how people often want to lose their identity and all that comes with it, and Lady Bird struggles with just that. She may eventually get far away from her Sacramento home and family, yet this only ends up bringing her closer to understanding herself. In the final scene of the film, Lady Bird finds acceptance in herself, her family, and her home, and she is finally able to live on as Christine.

 

Cover Photo Credit: Village Voice

 

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