Never mind what Joan Didion or “Lady Bird” thinks. I’ve been to Sacramento. I’ve grown up in some crap-ass places, and Sacramento doesn’t even come close.
Lady Bird (née Christine McPherson, and remember: ya can’t spell “Christine” without “Christ!”) yearns to spread her wings and experience a whole new, presumably exciting culture, in the film Lady Bird, from acclaimed rookie director Greta Gerwig. I can completely relate to her wanting to get out of her home town after graduating high school; I did the same thing, and I wasn’t even a Catholic white girl. In fact, I’m still not. “Lady Bird” is a name Christine gave herself because… reasons, I guess. Was she a fan of LBJ’s wife? Was she really fond of female birds? Dunno. Not important, anyway. Turned out, wanting to be called Lady Bird is the least annoying thing she does throughout the movie.
The movie opens with Lady Bird and her mom Marion driving home. It appears that Mom is laying into LB pretty good with the usual mom-style nagging and nitpicking. But, just as soon as we start feeling sorry for LB, she hurls herself out of the moving car, resulting in her being fit with a pink arm cast on which she lovingly scribbles “F*CK YOU MOM.” LB cements her status as a rebellious teen, and quickly ramps it up to 11 with her attitude and shenanigans. Snacking on communion wafers with her bestie Julie, bickering with Mom, brother Miguel, and whoever else tries to tell her anything, and just being an all-star sourpuss made me feel especially bad for Mom, who has to put up with her, as well as her depressed and unemployed husband, not to mention all the sad medical cases she encounters at work.
Mom Marion by the way, is played by the incomparable Laurie Metcalf, and she positively kills the role. Of course, she’s good in everything. It’s just too bad for me that some of her longest recurring roles on TV are in shows I can’t stand (Roseanne and The Big Bang Theory). She recently had a guest role on Supergirl, and it was glorious.
What was I talking about? Oh, right: Lady Bird is, at its core, a tale of a young woman finding herself, and generally not liking what she finds, so she keeps looking for places and people with which she might belong. Mom might know what’s best for LB, but LB certainly isn’t interested in hearing it. It’s not that LB is hateful, malicious or even unlikable–it’s just that she’s… kind of an asshole. And the fact that she isn’t an innocent waif who has stuff just happen to her gives the film a refreshing new take on an old-as-dirt story structure. And no matter how nasty LB can get, Mom never stops loving her. Even when it’s clear that she doesn’t “like” her.
LB eventually does make it to NYC, emerging from the subway with suitcases and a pollyanna look on her face (She might as well have been wearing a sandwich board sign with MUG ME written on it in day-glo paint). After discovering some messages Mom wrote her, and nearly dying from alcohol poisoning, “Christine” comes to the realization that yeah, she has been a royal pain in the ass to the people who loved her, and she makes tracks back to Sac-town.
Even though I’m not, I reiterate, a white woman, there was quite a lot for me to relate to in Lady Bird. It’s well-acted by everyone, the humor is frequent and occasionally edgy, and while it wasn’t perfect, I’d say it was hella tight. Four out of five stars.