Movies, like any form of art, resonate with everyone in a different way. I don’t particularly like music while many of my closest friends find it as an important aspect to their lives. I can look at a picture my sister took and see something completely different than what she intended.
The reason for this is because our viewpoints on art are determined by our life experiences. It’s not an incredibly original thing to say but it’s a universal truth: what we have experienced in the past, particularly our teenage years, shapes who we are later on.
That’s why I found “Lady Bird” to be an all-around good movie but didn’t think it was the best movie of the year, as many have praised it. This isn’t because it was lacking in performances, production design or message, all of which it actually excelled at, but because its core struggle and message didn’t resonate with me.
The film focuses on Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a free spirited high school senior in Sacramento, who is desperate to leave the confines of her small town and go to college on the East Coast. It is yet another wrench thrown in her tension-filled relationship with her mother Marion.
The well-meaning Marion struggles to keep her criticisms of her daughter to herself often leading to confrontations between the two throughout the film. The McPherson family is also struggling with finances while Lady Bird’s anti-conformist brother and girlfriend still live with the family.
Lady Bird’s free spirit leads to a rebellious streak which includes poor grades, lack of school involvement and an overall blasé when it comes to her Catholic school. That changes once she decides to audition for a school play and begins dating one of the actors.
The romance between the two from the first meeting to their first date and beyond is the perfect embodiment of the awkwardness of your first romantic encounter. Lady Bird tries to play it cool by spitting out clichés like, “You come here often?” while at the grocery store and awkwardly tapping on the shoulder to get his attention on the first date.
The film explores her last year of high school as she goes behind her mother’s back to apply to eastern colleges and attempts to get into the popular clique all while acting in a particular quirky manner that puts the viewer off at first but they quickly grow to love.
Watching the struggles of a high schooler who is desperate to fulfill their dreams and convinced they are just as adult as their parents are heavy topics that are alleviated by well-crafted awkward comedy. The film’s ability to make the viewer feel for Lady Bird while at the same time laughing at the sheer awkwardness as she strives for adulthood is the perfect balance to create an enjoyable experience for the viewer.
The cast around the lead, Soairse Ronan, is without a doubt one of the best ensemble casts among the best picture nominations this year. Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts as Lady Bird’s parents perfectly portray the struggle of parents battling depression brought on by financial struggles all while doing everything they can for the kids, even if it falls short.
Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet, who is arguably the breakout star of 2017, play their respective parts of confused teen and angst-filled jerk that make them feel like legitimate high school personalities. Perhaps the best side character is Beanie Feldstein’s Julie Steffans who is Lady Bird’s best friend and whose relationship with her is tested throughout.
Ronan’s performance as the titular Lady Bird is without a doubt the best performance by a female lead this year. Playing a difficult role of what some could see as a bratty teenager but avoiding it by expressing she isn’t rebellious because it’s fun, she does it because she feels this urge to do more. It’s a role that Ronan executed without a flaw and should be awarded for.
Part of the film’s acclaim was the fact that it was actor-turned-director Greta Gerwig’s first solo directorial attempt. Gerwig, who also wrote the script, said the film is loosely based around her own upbringing in Sacramento. Gerwig’s ability to write dialogue that at no points feels like a movie line but rather real conversations between people is what pushes this movie into the pantheon of best films of 2017.
Luckily for me, I had parents who supported what I wanted to do since I was a teenager and I was firmly set on being a writer since I was 15. I didn’t have this desperate need to leave my hometown despite doing so. I have a great relationship with both my parents.
So while this film didn’t strike the strong emotional chords in me as it did with others, the fact that it was still an enjoyable experience validates the acclaim. For those who have had similar feelings or struggles as Lady Bird does in the film, it will impact them in a way few others do.