While wholly novel in its approach, director Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age debut “Lady Bird” seems so well-known, personal, and honest that it’s considered an instant classic. “Lady Bird” is an era-defining story — in the same category as the “The Graduate,” “The Breakfast Club,” and “Garden State” — that will have a similarly enduring impact on those who grew up in the early 2000s. This film’s raw simplicity and distinctly feminine perspective have endeared it to the hearts of many and allow it to be considered a masterwork.
The Oscar-nominated film follows the bold Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a defiant young woman who is determined to break free of the confines of suburban Sacramento and plunge into the metropolitan by attending college out East “where writers live in the woods.” She feels limited by her hometown, her overbearing mother, and her Catholic high school, which she lovingly dubs “Sacred Fart.” Yet, as she prepares to graduate, Lady Bird explores her relationship with her family and hometown with a realism and vulnerability rarely seen on film.
“Lady Bird” moves at the pace of life. All at once it seems as if nothing is happening, yet things are whirling by — each moment is captivating and seems to blur into the next. As she navigates her senior year, Lady Bird deals with first loves and losses. She battles insecurity and comes to terms with who she is. Audiences watch as a young girl crawls her way into adulthood, holding on to much of her past as she moves forward.
As much as Lady Bird dismisses her hometown with the ferocity of a restless teenager who’s aching to experience life, her groundswell of love for the town and those in it becomes apparent throughout the film. She walks through neighborhoods and carefully selects her dream home. She stops to catch the views of the freeways when she can.
With two strong women at its center, and another strong woman helping the film, the perspective of “Lady Bird” is achingly relatable to anyone who has been a 17-year-old girl or a mother. Despite how she and her mother nag each other, the film opens on them sharing a bed together. The pair are later seen weeping with one another over a cassette audiobook of “The Grapes of Wrath.” Though there is much vitriol between them at times, it is the underlying tenderness between them that heightens the bitter moments. This film dives into this complexity without exploiting it for drama.
What makes Lady Bird so special is how it treats its characters. The performances within this film are so raw and subtle, the characters feel like complete human beings. Each character within the film has a voice and distinct purpose, no matter how minor the role. We meet a depressed priest, a humorous nun, and a handful of charming minor characters — each with his or her own message.
Life is examined so eloquently and tenderly in this film that “Lady Bird” hits nearly every emotion you can feel. “Lady Bird” will make you laugh, cry, feel nostalgic, and long for home. It’s an incredibly original and realistic film that poignantly paints what it feels like to be seventeen.