Lady Bird (2017)
Director: Greta Gerwig
Writer: Greta Gerwig
Actors: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges
My experience watching Lady Bird was very strange. I had just watched The Shape of Water the day before, and had a lot of mixed feelings on that film. Wanting something different, I thought why not watch Lady Bird the next night. I sat down and the film started. Watching the first scene with the mother and Lady Bird in the car, I felt this awful feeling. Seeing this redheaded teen screaming at her mother demanding to be called Lady Bird because its her name, I was scared. I thought "here we go, this is something I will never be able to relate to". However, that feeling very quickly went away as Greta Gerwig pulled the rug from under me and showed me that even a red headed teen named Lady Bird full of angst and rebelliousness can be relatable to someone like me. In a year where films like Three Billboards, Shape of Water, and Darkest Hour are so unrelatable, here comes a simple film about a teen's final year in high school and shows them how to make something that connects with audiences.
The strongest aspect of Lady Bird in my opinion is the editing along with the pacing. I truly believe that if the editing/pacing was not as tight as it currently is, this film would not have been nearly as effective. You need to think about the amount of tonal shifts this films goes through in a span of an hour and a half. How it is able to so easily go from a very serious situation like a fight with your mother to a funny situation. Lady Bird does this so well you don't even feel the shifts in tone, they blend in so well. On the other hand we have a film like Three Billboards which had two hours to try and balance between a drama and a dark comedy and wasn't able to do that. What I also love about the editing of Lady Bird is that the film never dwells on anything. It does not give an event much more weight than anything else happening in her life. When she breaks her arm, the film just moves on, it does not dwell on the fact that she did it, or that she is going to have to live in a cast for however long. Or for example when she found out her boyfriend was gay, this is supposed it be something huge, yet the film does not really dwell on it for so long. We see a short scene where she refuses to hold his hand during the final bow and it just moves along. By doing it this way, Gerwig was able to put an equal amount of importance to every single scene in this film. Lady Bird fighting with her mom has the same importance as her goofing off with Julie eating treats. They all add to the character of Lady Bird and that is what this film is all about. All in all, I felt like the whole structure of the film, along with the tonal pacing was really spot on, and it is what made this film effective to me personally.
I can't really talk about this film without bringing up the mother daughter relationship between Lady Bird and her mother. This aspect of the film is obviously one that many people enjoyed and felt like was portrayed in a brilliant way, and I totally agree with that. Their relationship never felt fake to me. Throughout the film, I could imagine them as being actual people arguing about putting away clothes before going to bed. The conversations were real, and never felt forced, which is why I felt like they were so effective. This is also obviously coupled with the great acting of Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan, who I feel like were robbed of the awards. Their performances, although simple, were so effective and actually really hard to pull off well without seeming fake. If they hadn't acted as well I don't think this film would be as genuine as it currently is. The back and forth between the two and how they play off of each other felt like an actual mother and daughter arguing. I just really enjoyed this aspect of the film, and don't have much else to say about it. It was spot on.
I won't go into much else when it comes to the film, because this is a simple film, and I want to just keep this review simple as well. However, I do want to touch upon some themes that this film has, especially with the ending. I watched this film twice in theaters, and I only noticed this aspect during my second viewing. Throughout the film, Lady Bird has been focused on Sacramento and her hatred for the place. She is using her city as the reason for why she has not been able to flourish, or for her sadness. So all of her energy has been on pinpointing the reason which is why she pays so much attention to the city. So we see that throughout the film she is trying so hard to go to college in a place as far away from Sacramento as possible. Because she feels like the farther away she is from this detriment, the more she will be able to flourish as an individual and bring out her true potential. So during the end of the film, when she finally achieved moving away, we see what she actually feels. During her first night in New York, she gets drunk and taken to the hospital. She wakes up, and goes to a church. She is obviously missing her home since church was an important part of her life back home. As she exits the church she calls upon her mom and realizes at that moment that all she needed was just staring her in the face all her life. The city that she hated was actually the one that made her into the person that she is. There are two distinct scenes that help with this comparison. When you look at the scenes of Lady Bird walking through Sacramento and through New York. I think Greta purposefully made those two shots with a very similar angle. When Lady Bird is walking through New York at the end, you can see that her back is hunched a bit, and she feels unenthusiastic. Whereas when she was walking through Sacramento, you could see the twinkle in her eyes and how she actually does love this city. Her efforts to make it out as the bad guy made her not realize how much she actually likes it. I think there is actually much more to dissect her when it comes to the aspects of both cities and how they tie into the film, but I don't know much about them. Either way, I really enjoyed this simple thematic aspect of the film by incorporating the cities in the story and making it something meaningful.
To sum up, Lady Bird is a very simple film, and that's okay. The film revels in its simplicity and manages to show that you don't need an elaborate plot or over the top acting to have something relatable. You can just have a simple story about a teenager's last year in high school and it can be as effective if not more, than films with huge budgets and elaborate stories. I feel like, even if you do not find this film relatable, I find it hard to believe that someone can go out of this film without enjoying it. It is so simple in concept that you would have to enjoy it at least a bit. But for me personally, it was one of the highlights of 2017, and I can't wait to see what Greta Gerwig comes out with next.