Movie Review : Lady Bird (2017)
I would've probably never seen Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird if it hadn't been nominated for an Oscar. Indie, pseudo-mumblecore productions featuring dreamy teenagers tend to give me gas, so I steer clear of them whenever possible. They're never truly bad or truly great either, just shackled by their inherent desire of doing what Richard Linklater did two decades ago. Well, Lady Bird slapped me in the face and shoved my anti-mumblecore biases up my ass. I might've been the exact target audience for this movie, but it gave me... welp, a genuine emotional experience.
The titular Lady Bird is a high school senior named Christine, who doesn't know what she wants out of life but knows she doesn't want to go to UC Davis and stay in Sacramento with her family. She has a rocky relationship to her mother, a hard-working nurse who sees a lot of herself in her idealistic daughter, and tries to lower the expectations she has out of life. They put Lady Bird in a private school after her older brother Miguel witnesses a stabbing in a public institution, and Marion (the mother) has been worried her daughter is dreaming too big for the future they can offer her since then. But that doesn't prevent Lady Bird from aiming high.
It took me some time to get used to the aesthetic of Lady Bird. For twenty minutes or so, I was convinced that I was watching late night reruns of Degrassi High on cable television. It's not a visually pleasing movie. I would even say it's uncomfortable. One of the major themes in Lady Bird is the precarious nature of identity at a young age. Our protagonist changes her name from Christine to Lady Bird because she refuses the limitations inherent to her life. It's a mechanism through which she takes control of her life despite people scoffing and sometimes straightforwardly laughing at her ambitions of going to an East Coast college.
I had a strong emotional reaction to Lady Bird because I actually lived through that. I come from a small, isolated town and leaving for Montreal is considered the same as leaving for an exploration trip in another galaxy. It's something outside the confines of the known universe up there. So, I had these discussions and had to show this unwavering belief in what I wanted. I've ignored the struggles of my parents because I was too caught up in my own. It's a deceptively simple movie about something that's deceptively complicated to understand : life will lead you as far as your ambitions go. The only person who can dictate what you can and can't do is, ultimately, you.
Not all of you will react as strongly to Lady Bird as I did and it's fine. But if Greta Gerwig's subtle, nuanced and oddly funny writing doesn't elicit... something out of you, check your pulse because you might be dead inside. Lady Bird is a movie about the relationship between who you are and who you want to be at the age where you're not necessarily one or the other. Will it win the Oscar for Best Picture? It sure packs enough of an emotional punch to warrant the ultimate reward, but it may be a little too insular to win a popular vote in such a crowded year. I don't think Lady Bird will win, but it might be the best crafted piece of cinema among this year's nominees.