Lady Bird— Not Johnson

This is an excellent coming of age movie about a teenage girl in a Catholic high school in Sacramento California in the 90s. Her real name is Christine, but she has dubbed herself Lady Bird. Like so many coming of age movies (see e.g. the classic film The Breakfast Club) the film deals with the awkwardness of going through the latter stages of puberty, and raging hormones, and desperately wanting someone to like or love you, while knowing that certain kind of behaviors are not acceptable to one’s parents, and anyway, one is not mature enough for such things.

This is a short film, only 93 minutes but packed with emotional scenes, both heartwarming, and disturbing, both reaffirming and unsettling, particularly for those of us who are Christians. We see a lot of Lady Bird butting heads with her equally strong-willed mother, as she tries to establish her own identity and independence. And yet there is a winsome quality to the film as it is clear that the parents love Lady Bird, and vice versa. There are scenes where the mother understands the daughter, and scenes where she is overbearing and trying to regiment her life. There is so much in this film that seems all too true to life. Young love, frustration, a desire to chart one’s own course, the silliness and seriousness of high school and the need to do well to get into college, and so on. The movie will make you laugh, and perhaps also cry.

Greta Gerwig, the producer and director has done a great job with this short film, and as before Saoirse Ronan a rising star Irish actress is terrific, as is Laurie Metcalf as the mother, and also Beanie Feldstein as Julie, Lady Bird’s best friend at school. The male leads are alright, but not quite as good. I recommend this film to any parents who have teenage children, that is, if the parents actually want to understand what their kids are going through in those tumultuous teenage years. The film does not parody the Catholic faith, and indeed there is a very likable Mother Superior in the film. In a poignant moment after getting to college, Lady Bird asks a new friend if he believes in God, and when he says it’s a ridiculous idea, she retorts, ‘no more ridiculous that accepting a name your parents gave you without question.’ Later we see her going to Mass, and being moved and then calling her parents. There is a good reason this film got a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. It may just be the best film of the year, at least of its sort.


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