Lady Bird ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp
Lady Bird (whose real name is Christine) is going through a bad time, a little thing called adolescence. She has a boyfriend, but she finds out, the hard way, that he’s gay. She has a pudgy friend named Julie, with whom she goes to Catholic school, where most of the teachers are nuns. (Julie has a crush on the handsome algebra teacher, one of the teachers who isn’t a nun.) She and Julie eat communion wafers like potato chips. “You’re not supposed to eat the wafers,” a classmate says. “They haven’t been consecrated yet,” Lady Bird explains.
It’s 2002 and Lady Bird’s family has been affected by difficult economic times. Her past-middle-aged father has lost his job. They live, Lady Bird says, “on the wrong side of the tracks,” in a house she’s ashamed of. She pretends to live in a large, two-story, well-tended house she likes, which happens to belong to the grandmother of her boyfriend (the one who turns out to be gay). She tells a friend that when she and the boyfriend get married, the house will belong to them when the grandmother dies. “Won’t the parents get it?” the friend asks. “Oh, yeah,” Lady Bird says. “We’ll have to kill them. And the older brother.”
Lady Bird lives in Sacramento, California, “the Midwest of California,” she says. She longs to get away from her home town and her family, but especially her exasperating, critical mother, and go to a college on the East Coast, “where there’s culture.” She doesn’t have the money to go to a “good” school, though, and might end up going to the local community college. She longs to be like the rich, stylish girls in her school who look like fashion models and seem to have it all.
There’s some wry humor and clever dialogue in Lady Bird that manages to rise above the level of TV sitcom. When a teacher asks Lady Bird if that is her “given” name, she says, “Yes, I gave it to myself.” Lady Bird and some of her friends at their Catholic school put a sign on the back of the nuns’ car that says, “Just married to Jesus.” One of the nuns informs Lady Bird later that she didn’t “just” marry Jesus but has been married to him for forty years. “He’s a lucky guy,” Lady Bird says.
Saoirse Ronan, who played an Irish girl who immigrates to America in Brooklyn, plays Lady Bird. Her mother is played by Laurie Metcalf, of TV sitcom fame (Roseanne and Getting On). As in real life, mother and daughter are prickly with each other and aren’t good at understanding each other’s problems. These are characters that seem like real people. How many mothers and daughters have you known that don’t get along very well? It seems to be an epidemic.
Lady Bird is a pleasant enough way to spend ninety-four minutes at the movies on a winter afternoon, even though it covers territory that seems all too familiar. (How many coming-of-age movies have there been about contentious child-parent relationships?) Is it worthy of all the accolades it’s receiving? Probably not. You be the judge.
Copyright © 2018 by Allen Kopp