Taking place in the early 2000s, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) starts her senior year at Catholic school. She and her mom (Laurie Medcalf) have a total love-hate relationship, while her dad (Tracy Letts) is always striving to be the hero/friend father figure. Lady Bird goes through the various rites-of-passage that are relationship ups and downs with drama geek Danny (Lucas Hedges) and then guitarist Kyle (Timothee Chalamet). She has a blast with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) but attempts to fit in with the popular girl Jenna (Odeya Rush). All this while trying to discover who she is, where she belongs in the world, and what college she should try to get in.
Lady Bird is a coming-of-age story for a teen girl who lies somewhere in the spectrum of “glam rock” and “emo”. These were the sorts of people I hung out with in high school (drama geeks, choir nerds, stoners and wannabe anarchists), so the characters here rang true for me and I could absolutely relate. The nostalgia here was even stronger since this film takes place during the 2002-2003 school year – which was the year after I graduated. It reminded me of the people I went to school with, and I feel like it was pretty close to life-accurate.
Saoirse Ronan gives an outstanding performance in the title role. Her back-and-forth between awkward insecurity and absolute confidence felt genuine, and her heartfelt emotional scenes felt like they were being dragged from the depths of the actress’ soul.
Likewise, her relationship with actress Beanie Feldstein (the sister of Jonah Hill) had a natural quality to it that makes me wonder if these two actually hang out in real life. Their chemistry was on point. The rest of the cast rounding out this indie drama did their jobs well, but nothing was really memorable other than Ronan and her chemistry with Feldstein.
While the story was good, we get these coming-of-age high school dramas a couple times a year. Last year we had The Edge of Seventeen starring singer Hailee Steinfeld. I haven’t gotten around to watching that one, but I’ve seen plenty of people in my Twitter feed commenting that that film portrayed the life of a teenager better than Lady Bird does (though, perhaps with not as strong a performance as Saoirse Ronan gives). The point is, we’re getting rehashes of the same white middle-class teenage girl dramas, year after year.
Another problem I have other than the feeling I’ve seen this before, is that the comedic aspect of the film often relies on awkwardness. This is something Hollywood in general seems to do a lot of recently and I’m curious – at what point did awkward moments become funny? Why am I supposed to laugh just because two people aren’t sure what they’re supposed to say to one another. Furthermore, at what point did that become attraction? See, when I’m around someone and there’s an awkward moment where neither of us don’t know what to say, that doesn’t feel like something bystanders would find amusing, nor do I imagine that must mean we’re hot for each other.
It’s just… awkward! I want out of that situation and I’m sure people watching such train wrecks would like to avert their eyes. Yet these moments seem to be stand-ins for authentic comedy and chemistry. But it’s neither.
Overall, Lady Bird does its job. It made me nostalgic to my own 2002 and the friends I had at the time, which gave me a couple smirks and a chuckle. More importantly, this is an entertaining film with a strong performance by a talented actress.