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  • Thursday, March 1, 2018
  • 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
  • CFAC
  • FREE

Lady Bird is the story of Christine McPherson, the self-proclaimed Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan, of Brooklyn and The Grand Budapest Hotel). She’s a headstrong senior at an all-girl’s Catholic high school in Sacramento, California—a town she belittles as “the Midwest of California.” If things go her way, she’ll attend an out of state college somewhere on the east coast where “writers live in the woods.” Meanwhile, her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) is a psychiatric nurse working double shifts and providing for her family of four since her husband was laid-off. Marion drives her daughter around on a college tour and pays for her education, but refuses to knock before entering her room. Being a teenager, Lady Bird only seems to notice the latter. The relationship between the two, built on unrecognized expressions of affection, is the heart and energy of the film.

Supporting Ronan and Metcalf is a cast of new and extraordinary talent whose presence makes Sacramento feel like your own hometown. Lucas Hedges, who made waves last year with his performance in Manchester By the Sea and Timothée Chalamet, earning his own Oscar buzz this year with Call Me By Your Name, play Lady Bird’s high school crushes. Beanie Feldstein is Lady Bird’s BFF; she’s the prom date we all hope for when we ask our friends to the dance and the ideal shoulder to cry on when experiencing a broken heart for the first time. The Catholic School is sprinkled with nuns teaching Kierkegaard and students singing their hearts out to Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along.

The rocky relationship with her mother, the crush that ends in a broken heart, and the few spots of acne (something not usually seen in cinematic portrayals of young women) make Lady Bird the teenager many of us recognize when we look back on our own formative years. She’s forming her identity, literally making a name for herself, and trying new things. Lady Bird does everything with her whole heart which, to me, is most evident in the outfit she wears to the western-themed prom. That familiar teenage desire to be somewhere else or be someone else flows into every part of the film but is challenged by the expectations of a mother planted firmly in reality. The dreams and expectations, while conflicting at first, eventually meet in a moment that will have you reaching for your phone to call your mom when the film is over.

Before Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig was the face of independent film’s quirkiest genre, mumblecore. Her first major writing credits were Frances Ha and Mistress America which she co-wrote with director Noah Baumbach. Fans of the wacky and poignant women present in those two indies will recognize Gerwig’s voice in Lady Bird. It’s her directorial debut and her effort has earned her recognition from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and film critic associations across the country—no small feat.

I hate to call Lady Bird a coming-of-age story simply because coming-of-age as a genre is overused, underdeveloped, and, historically, male—think Rebel Without A Cause or The Graduate. In 2014 I thought the coming-of-age genre was over when Richard Linklater released his twelve-year epic Boyhood. In a little more than two hours, you can watch a typical white American boy grow up before your eyes as he experiences everything from first love to first alcoholic drink. Coming-of-age had officially run its course.

Then, Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight arrived in 2016 and gave the genre new life and color it had never seen before. In 2017, Gerwig gifted us Lady Bird, an exploration of personhood for young women. This particular woman is growing up in the age of Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me” and televised raids in Iraq post September 11, 2001. While the film hits traditional coming-of-age moments such as buying a pack of cigarettes on an 18th birthday, Gerwig also gives us the humor of bickering while shopping for clothes with mom and the tenderness of hugs and airport goodbyes. Coming-of-age hasn’t died, but sings a new tune with Lady Bird.

—Hailey Jansson

March 2018
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