Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig, an actress for many years, reveals herself to be a talented writer and director with Lady Bird, a standout coming-of-age story starring the excellent Saoirse Ronan as a mischievous, unappreciative Catholic schoolgirl with a “performative streak”. Lady Bird is the rare teen film that will be just as enjoyable, if not more so, to parents as to younger viewers, and the film’s development of its protagonist’s relationship and interactions with her parents, her sweet and vulnerable father (playwright Tracy Letts) and especially her stern but big-hearted mother (Roseanne’s Laurie Metcalf), is finely textured and affecting. Occasional grossness fails to ruin an overwhelmingly touching and funny film experience.

Five stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Lady Bird is:

6. Pro-gay. Lady Bird, at first disgusted to discover that her boyfriend (Lucas Hedges) is gay, ultimately feels sympathy for his situation.

5. Populist. Lady Bird, at first ashamed of living in Sacramento, comes to accept her attachment to “the Midwest of California”. Gerwig set the film in 2002 and 2003, she says during her commentary, to mark the period she identifies as a key moment in “the erosion of the middle class”, with 9/11 and the Iraq War referenced as contributors to middle America’s decline. “Is this a joke?” the protagonist asks on seeing a picture of Ronald Reagan hanging in the home of a more well-to-do family. In a refreshing break from typical suburbs-bashing fare like Todd Solondz’s Happiness, Gerwig concedes that American suburbia is “in my bones”, and this affection communicates itself through the tempered and never obnoxious sentimentalism on display in Lady Bird.

4. Drug-ambivalent. Students share a rumor that their teacher Father Leviatch (Stephen Henderson) had a son who died of a drug overdose, but the overall tone of Lady Bird toward recreational substances is more permissive. “Her mom clearly knows that they’re high,” Gerwig observes of one scene in which Lady Bird’s mother encounters her daughter with a group of her friends. “She’s not gonna do it [i.e., reprimand them]. She’s gonna just leave,” Gerwig approves. Lady Bird’s grandmother, on the other hand, is said to have been an “abusive alcoholic”.

3. Race-ambivalent. Catholicism appears in Lady Bird as a successful model for peaceful coexistence of races, but the existence of sub-rosa racial tensions is also acknowledged, as when Lady Bird suggests that her adopted mestizo brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues) got accepted by a competitive university primarily because of his ethnicity and he in turn accuses her of racism. It is interesting to note that Miguel and fellow non-white adoptee Shelly (Marielle Scott) are usually framed separately, so that they never seem to be fully integrated members of the McPherson family. Mild moments of anti-white bias occur in Lady Bird when the protagonist is shown copying answers from an Asian girl during a test and when comparatively well-behaved Miguel and Shelly have to scold unruly white girls for wrinkling the magazines in a grocery store, where Lady Bird is also shown shoplifting. Her Asian boss at the coffee shop where she later gets a job also has to reprimand her for flirting on the clock – a second juxtaposition of oriental seriousness and work ethic as opposed to white American frivolousness.

2. Anti-Semitic! Lady Bird vomits after drunkenly kissing an atheistic New York Jew named David at a party. “We don’t have to constantly be entertaining ourselves, do we?” Lady Bird’s mother objects at her daughter’s fiddling with the car radio. Who but a hate-filled anti-Semite would object to a non-stop saturation diet of popular culture?

1.Christianish. Writer-director Gerwig had a Catholic upbringing and brings both an affectionate familiarity and an irreverence to her depiction of a Catholic high school, acknowledging Catholicism’s “theatricality” and making light of the superstitions associated with transubstantiated wafers and such. At the end of the film, however, the protagonist abandons her concocted identity as “Lady Bird” and embraces her given name of Christine, a marker of her identity as a Christian. In addition, after moving from Sacramento to New York, she feels herself drawn to the comforting beauty of a cathedral service with its choir. She returns, says Gerwig, to “the place that is home to her”.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

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