Blog Directory CineVerse: That girl can wing

That girl can wing

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Greta Gerwig is quickly proving herself to be a female film force to be reckoned with, not only in front of the camera but especially behind it (as evidenced, most recently, by her fantastic reimagining of Little Women, released in 2019). Our CineVerse group made a date last week with Lady Bird, Gerwig’s 2017 film about a quirky and memorable teenage girl, and quickly fell in love with its many charms. Here’s a recap of our discussion (to listen to a recording of our group conversation, click here).

What did you find interesting, unexpected, refreshing, or rewarding about Lady Bird?

  • Instead of being a tale about a maturing girl finding love and romance, this is a story primarily about the difficult relationship between a teenage daughter and her mother and how they need to appreciate each other more.
  • It doesn’t follow the same predictable cliché paths that perhaps other coming-of-age teenage comedy typically would. For example, the losing of Lady Bird’s virginity isn’t some profound, romantic, or grandiose experience. Lady Bird isn’t some ultra-hip, edgy, completely nonconformist character designed to set trends; she follows trajectories expected of real-life adolescents, like sucking up to the cool crowd and liking the Dave Matthews Band and Alanis Morrissette instead of obscure bands with more street cred. Consider that the main character lacks finer artistic sensibilities, is an undependable friend, and is an unexceptional student. Also, ponder that the teachers and clergy at the school are kind and understanding.
  • The film deftly achieves a nice balance totally between comedy and drama, minus the need for maudlin sensibilities.
    • Lara Zarum of The Village Voice wrote: “Lady Bird is a rare bird: sentimental without being saccharine, emotional without being contrived, able to conjure tears without yanking at our heartstrings while the music swells. Its matter-of-factness is what makes the film ultimately so wrenching. There’s no great tragedy here, and no great uplift; just life, as it’s actually lived, and the moments that make you who you are.”
  • Some of this story and its characters are semi-autobiographical, as writer/director Greta Gerwig grew up in Sacramento, had a controlling mother who worked as a nurse, and assumedly experienced many of the same feelings and events that Lady Bird does.

Themes explored

  • The often awkward transition from adolescence to adulthood.
  • The generation and communication gap between teenagers and their parents. Lady Bird and her mother have a strained relationship because they don’t know how to talk to each other or empathize with one another. They both take each other for granted: Marion is hyper-critical of her daughter and tries to micromanage her without being sensitive to what Lady Bird is going through or feeling, and Lady Bird doesn’t appreciate her mother’s intentions, hard work, and sacrifices she makes. While they repel each other, ironically, they are very similar in their steadfast ways, stubbornness, and convictions.
    • “In a way, it is about how impossible it is for teenagers to imagine the emotional lives of their parents, or to acknowledge those stricken elders’ devastating sense of abandonment and uselessness when the child leaves home and they have to suppress the symptoms of anger, competitive rage, and loss,” wrote The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw.
  • Peer pressure and the importance of social acceptance. Lady Bird imposes pressure on herself to become deflowered, appeal to the popular and rich kids in school (to the detriment of her best friend), act in rebellious and forbidden ways (such as dissing the guest speaker and stealing her teacher’s grade book), and get stone drunk at a college party.
  • “Liking” vs. “loving, “ or appreciating your roots and your past. Throughout much of the film, Lady Bird expresses her dissatisfaction with her hometown of Sacramento and her yearning to spread her wings and live in a more culturally enriching environment. But by the end of the movie, she realizes that she misses home.
    • Recall the exchange between the nun and Lady Bird: Sister Sarah Joan: You clearly love Sacramento. Lady Bird: I do? Sister Sarah Joan: You write about Sacramento so affectionately and with such care. Lady Bird: I was just describing it. Sister Sarah Joan: Well it comes across as love. Lady Bird: Sure, I guess I pay attention. Sister Sarah Joan: Don't you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?
    • Lady Bird asks her mother if she likes her. Marion replies that she loves her, but her daughter responds, “But do you like me?” A parent’s unconditional love for her child is assumed, but that parent may not like, admire, or respect her child much, which seems to be the case with Marion.
    • Similarly, Lady Bird realizes that she loves Sacramento after leaving it, even though she didn’t like her hometown while she lived there.
    • Diksha Sundriyal of The Cinemaholic wrote: “In the final monologue, she acknowledges her love for both of them. She thinks about the first time she drove around the city and how different it felt to her while also being all the same as it had always been. And the fact that she wanted to share this with her mother is the testament of how close they actually are to each other. She also addresses herself as Christine, which means she has shed over the Lady Bird phase, and has finally got around to accepting herself as is rather than what she thinks she should be.”

Similar works

  • Rushmore
  • Election
  • Boyhood
  • The Lovers
  • The Edge of Seventeen
  • Saved!
  • The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles
  • The Virgin Suicides

Other films directed by or starring Greta Gerwig

  • Little Women
  • Francis Ha
  • Mistress America

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