Rating: 5/5 (Minor Spoilers)
I recently rewatched Lady Bird after first watching it in 2017, and even though I basically balled my eyes out both times, I felt different watching it again.
I love movies/stories like Lady Bird, where the characters draw you in rather than the plot (which in this movie, is almost non-existent). My writing teacher strongly dislikes stories without plot. “What are the audience watching for if there’s no plot?” However, I think that movies like Lady Bird are realistically artistic in the sense that life doesn’t always have a straight-forward plot where the hero goes on a journey and retrieves some golden egg. And even though stories don’t necessarily have to mimic life, I prefer those that shed light on some aspect of human behavior, which Lady Bird does perfectly.
If I have to summarize the plot of the movie, it follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson as she tries to navigate her high school, and for a couple of scenes, college career. She experiences the highs and lows of being a hormonal teenager, even jumping out the car and breaking her arm once.
Nothing spectacular happens in the plot. No Cinderella story, no sudden reversal from being at the bottom of the social pool to the top, no fantastical romance stories, only two disappointing ones.
Born Christine McPherson, Lady Bird gave the name to herself and asks to be called by it. Her mother, who is as stubborn her, always refuses and calls her by her birth name. The mother-daughter tension created by the simply use of a name is extended throughout the movie and can be viewed as a major theme. By wanting more than what she already has (e.g. changing her name and applying to expensive northeastern colleges), the mother tells Lady Bird that she is ungrateful, while both resenting her for it and fearing that she and the father is not enough. We see this tension play out as the mother writes and rewrites letters to give to Lady Bird, yet eventually throws them all away, and especially as she starts to cry on the drive home and changes her route back to the airport, to find that Lady Bird had already left.
Another engaging relationship is between father and daughter, and Lady Bird’s eventual realization that her father isn’t as happy and mellow as he looks. We can tell from the simple moments when they share a birthday cupcake to more complicated scenes where he helps her fill out her financial aid information, that he truly truly loves her. And even though that seems like a terribly cliche thing to say, their relationship is further complicated by Lady Bird’s desire for more, and the father’s struggle with depression and his loss of job.
There are many other different facets that make this movie wonderful: Lady Bird and Julie’s friendship, Lady Bird and Danny’s friendship, Timothee Chalamet, the music and cinematography, etc. etc.
It is strange how close to Lady Bird I feel, even though I was born in an entirely different country and have never jumped out of a car. Yet the specifics of her universe makes her story universal, and I can’t think of any other movie that so well encapsulates the terribleness of adolescence, except for maybe The Perks of Being a Wallflower.