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Monday, June 18, 2018

A movie dealing with the failures and dreams of growing up

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Lady Bird (2017) is a different kind of coming-of-age story directed and written by Greta Gerwig. The eponymous Lady Bird, or Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is a girl who has named herself Lady Bird to be distinct.

The movie is enjoyable because it celebrates different aspects of teenage-hood and young adults that are not always delineated with such tact and detail.

The movie also stars the actor Timothée Chalamet of Call Me by Your Name fame. Lady Bird has flaws and is not a perfect character. She is the average student who is clever, intelligent, emotive and ambitious.

She doesn't always do well in school and it does hurt her chances to get into a better college for undergraduate studies. Yet, her dream is to leave Sacramento, California and enter into a wider world.

The film has some mature themes and depicts some reckless actions from Lady Bird. It is the integrity of the paper to warn not to try these actions at home. For example, Lady Bird jumps out of the car in a highway when in an argument with her mother.

She is lucky to be alive but breaks her right arm. Lady Bird is in her senior year at a prestigious Catholic School, whose boy's section is called Xavier Boys and the girl's section is called Immaculate Heart Girls. 

Lady Bird's family is financially unstable and she is silently resentful of their status in life seeing she goes to a school with wealthier children. One of her favorite past times is to walk on the wealthy neighborhood with her talented friend, Julianne "Julie" Steffans, and dream what is like being a resident of those homes.

This is where the movie's crux is established. Lady Bird and her mother, Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf), do not necessarily share the same views. The movie begins with a quote from Joan Didion: ""Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento." Lady Bird wants to live through life and not just exist in it.

The movie is set in 2002, which Lady Bird says is only interesting because it is a palindrome. Due to their financial difficulties, Marion wants Lady Bird to accept colleges near Sacramento.

Lady Bird wants to explore culture and the world thus wishes to go to places like New York. Marion gets angry and wonders how she raised such a snob and proceeds to put down Lady Bird. She says that Lady Bird's lack of work ethic and seriousness means she won't become successful.

This is a reoccurring theme in the movie where Lady Bird is unconsciously treated badly by her mother. Though her mother means well she sometimes becomes pretty discouraging, distant and mean to which Lady Bird either responds angrily to or gets silent.

At one crucial moment in the movie, Lady Bird asks her mother if she likes her. Her mother responds that she loves her very much. Yet, Lady Bird stresses on the word "like" and Marion becomes silent highlighting the rift between the two.

Lady Bird and Julie join theatre group in school but Lady Bird is disappointed to realize that she is not a thespian. It is Julie, who is also incredible in mathematics (even tries to downplay her talents by missing exam answers as she is too shy to accept her intellect), who gets leading roles.

However, Lady Bird starts a relationship with Danny O'Neill (Lucas Hedges), the leading boy of the stage. Their relationship is very idyllic and Lady Bird gets confident and feels really inspired. Ultimately, Danny betrays Lady Bird.

The film does not portray most characters as black or white. Danny's betrayal was not justified but it was excusable. When he comes to apologize and starts to cry Lady Bird shows empathy and compassion for him even though people had said, including Lady Bird's own mother, that she is focused mostly on herself.

She realized they share chemistry as friends and still remain friends. This does happen after Lady Bird quits theatre to hang out with the wealthier kids like Jenna Walton (Odeya Rush) and Kyle Scheible (Timothée Chalamet). She soon starts ignoring Julie as well.

The film does a good thing here to explore that academic brilliance and intellectualism are not always qualifiers for being great people. Jenna is actually pretty superficial despite being in advanced placement classes and Kyle acts like a pseudo-intellect.

It is Kyle who betrays Lady Bird the most. Whatever Danny did was an innocent mistake but Kyle acts nihilistic and selfish. When he hurts Lady Bird he doesn't take responsibility and instead tries to gaslight her emotions and tell her that there are people around the world suffering more than her.

To which Lady Bird astutely answers that their plight does not reduce her pain nor the fact that Kyle had lied to her and betrayed her. It is the rupture from Kyle that we get to see Lady Bird and Marion connect a bit more and show that Marion does care and love Lady Bird. Though their mother-daughter bond remains tenuous in the film many a times.

Lady Bird friendship with Jenna is also superficial and it turns out she is not as understanding or forgiving as one would assume. Lady Bird lied about her roots because she was ashamed to be known as a girl who is poor.

When Jenna finds out she does not fathom why Lady Bird would lie and feels it is stupid. Jenna is a wealthy girl and she does have all the privileges she needs so she does not attempt to empathize with Lady Bird making Lady Bird realize her true friend is Julie.

The movie climactic moments are tense, Lady Bird has a better relationship with her father, Larry McPherson (Tracy Letts), because he seems kind and an amicable person.

She convinces her father to help her apply for scholarships and financial aid to go to a college in New York. Lady Bird's own brother Miguel McPherson (Jordan Rodrigues) went to Berkeley so Lady Bird feels frustrated that she cannot also go to a good college.

 When she is able to get into the waiting list her mother is furious and stops talking to Lady Bird, which has a psychological effect on her. She gets unhappy at her mother curt statements and silent treatment but she is resolved to pursue her dreams.

It is not that Marion does not want her daughter to expand her horizons, like Miguel's girlfriend Shelly Yuhan (Marielle Scott) said, her mother has a big heart, so she thinks about everyone.

She thinks Lady Bird going to school out of state would be costly for the family. Though you can see her barrier cracking when she realizes that she may be being too stubborn and hard on her daughter.

The movie ends with both Lady Bird and Marion understanding each other a bit better and respecting the other though it took a lot of obstacles and walls to reach there. Lady Bird is a movie I feel relatable to anyone who has ever been a teenager or even progressed to adulthood.

Lady Bird isn't perfect but there is something very real and tangible about her. She desires to survive to live well and to be her best and not necessarily based on the views of others. She has an ambitious nature and an enduring spirit. This movie is very well written and executed and I recommend it to anyone.

The writer is a copy editor at
The Asian Age, Bangladesh

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