I like ‘Lady Bird’ too much to not write about it before the Oscars
“Lady Bird” opens with a quotation from Joan Didion: “Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.”
I have spent a Christmas in Sacramento, Calif. It was awful. I did not like a single part of it. I often tell my friends California would be perfect if we just got rid of the city repulsively known as Sac-town. I sometimes joke the best part of any visit to Sacramento is leaving for home.
My mom wanted to take us all for a Christmas vacation but my dad had just started his business. Sacramento was cheap and just a two-hour drive away. Why not, right? Here is why not: Christmas in Sacramento is dead. Yes, deader even than Sacramento during the rest of the year.
To this day, my mom is relentlessly teased by the rest of the family for her poor trip planning. Needless to say, we complained a lot. At one point, my mom had enough. She banished all of us to a train museum—a terrible train museum—for like a year or something (two hours) to preserve her own sanity. The trip was a disaster.
Despite this, I remember our vacation clearly and more importantly, fondly. I remember eating mini-donuts, having dinner at a P.F. Changs, watching the movie “Tintin” (criminally underrated), walking by our hotel and yes, even visiting the godawful exhibits at the train museum. I guess even though I didn’t really like our vacation, I sort of fell in love with it.
These meandering thoughts closely relate to “Lady Bird.” For me, it is useless to discuss the film without personal experience because the film is so personal. “Lady Bird” is humanizing and nothing short of genius; earning it the prestigious position of my favorite movie of all time (which is basically the equivalent of an Oscar and should make it on the IMDB page).
Greta Gerwig’s masterpiece is a coming-of-age classic. Remember the anxiety of senior year, applying to colleges, leaving your mark, making the most of your limited time? Now you don’t need to. Gerwig recreates it brilliantly. The film’s understanding of life and people surpasses even the most empathetic films. Plus, the writing is spectacular.
Many of the film’s warmest and most insightful moments come from how it observes and cares for all of its characters. The way a mother lingers in an open house, a teacher nervously fidgets or a father fixes his son’s tie all affect deeply. The film’s attention to detail and appreciation of the everyday brilliance of people and places astounds. This truly unique film makes every character and moment feel real; as if the characters live full and wonderful lives outside of what we see on screen.
That is where the personal connections return. Lady Bird’s mother is, at times, my mom; her father, at times, my dad. I grew up middle class and Lady Bird does too. I understand her California suburbs because I lived in California suburbs as well. Her desire to fly away mimicked my own. What Lady Bird feels, I too have felt.
Gerwig’s film is truly about observation and love. We get so caught up in our heads and our lives that we forget that truly magical and spiritual experience of living with the others around us. Lady Bird learns to care for others more seriously and in the process, we do as well. She also learns that liking and loving are not the same. Lady Bird’s mother loves Lady Bird but doesn’t always like her. Lady Bird hates Sacramento but also loves it. Leaving the theater, I wanted to be a better, more considerate adult. More shockingly, I wanted to revisit Sacramento and give it another chance.
All performances on and off screen are excellent. Saoirse Ronan plays Lady Bird with all the insecurity and meanness you expect, and a sweetness you didn’t. Tracy Letts, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Lois Smith and Stephen Henderson all delight. No matter how small the role, the performance and writing add lifelike nuance. The true standout, though, is Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird’s mother. She is outstanding. Her longing, love and exhaustion are touching.
Gerwig’s film means a lot to me. I can’t really explain it. Some movies you just fall in love with. For me, “Lady Bird” is that film. I love it completely. Every time I watch it, it etches its way in my heart. Greta Gerwig, thank you for a beautiful film.