• TLS Staff

Lady Bird: A Coming-Of-Age Drama For All Ages

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

The other day, as a force of habit, I hit ‘shuffle’ on my Spotify playlist. The song that started playing first, was the jaunty ‘New York Groove’ by KISS’s Ace Frehley. I sat there thinking as to where I had heard this song being talked about last. And to put you out of your misery, the answer was the film ‘Lady Bird’. Christine McPherson aka “Lady Bird” as she calls herself, talks about this song as wanting to have it as the background music to her life and how she is so far away from that kind of lifestyle as she is whiling away in Sacramento.

Saoirse Ronan plays the character of “Lady Bird” and to say that she has done a great job, would be an understatement. Greta Gerwig brings to life the story of this Sacramento teen through this coming-of-age drama and for a debut at direction and screenplay writing, Gerwig’s execution is flawless. Gerwig talks about how the film is loosely anecdotal and how her own life was in line with “Lady Bird”’s and how Sacramento shaped them both as individuals.

Ronan’s “Lady Bird” is pink-headed and that is not the only striking feature about her. In a world full of coming-of-age films where the protagonist battles through something, is shy and reserved when on the cusp of change, Lady Bird, is a breath of fresh air. She is different than your typical protagonist in a way that she is her own person and knows what she wants from the get-go.

The arc of this film is deceptively conventional. The protagonist stumbles through adolescence as she navigates her way through family, school, boyfriends, best friends and well, emotions. But there is so much more to the film than just that. Gerwig could have taken the regular angle and played her story out. Instead, she chose to give her character a say. Change the dynamics of the relationships “Lady Bird” gets into. Usually in coming-of-age dramas, the protagonist just reacts to whatever happens to them. In Lady Bird, Ronan actually does things and goes where her will takes her. We can see this when even though she is dating Patrick (played by the fantastic Lucas Hedges), she hardly gives it a second thought while ogling the bassist Kyle (played by the sultry Timothee Chalamet).

“Lady Bird” makes her way through life on her own. She seems far away from her family at times, especially when she realizes that her father has been suffering from depression for quite some time. We also witness her rocky relationship with her mother Marion (played by the amazing Laurie Metcalf), in the sense that they are always at loggerheads with one another. But all of that is reigned in by her mother’s frankness. Marion’s openness with the facts about their financial situation. Her candour about “Lady Bird”’s calibre. “Lady Bird” gets a sense of her family through her mother’s absolute openness. And quite frankly, that has seeped into “Lady Bird” herself and that is exactly what her father (Tracy Letts) means when he says, “You both have such strong personalities.”

If you look at the film’s language, it immediately engulfs you. Lady Bird does not beat around the bush when it comes to dialogue. The dialogues are finely curated and exquisite, in a sense. From “Lady Bird”’s, “Different things can be sad, it’s not all war”, to her mother’s, “Money is not life’s report card”, Lady Bird plays around with some really hard emotions as it weaves them into fine dialogue. Because of this, the film doesn’t lose its rhythm at any point.

Coming to the look of the film, Gerwig has made it clear that the film looks like a not-so-distant memory. It is based in the recent past for most Millenials and even the Gen Z, the crowd which especially relates to the film. Gerwig puts in a lot of visuals that cue the viewer about the time the film is based. The flip phones, the characters’ wardrobe, snippets from the Iraq war running on the TV, all pointing to the fact that “Lady Bird”’s reality could have been lived by so many people in and around America.

As we move from one scene to the next, with a simple cut, we realize the fact that the link is actually not present physically. Let me elaborate. As we move from scene to scene, we want to see what happens next before we cut to the next scene. We want to see what the characters discuss and talk about after we have moved away from them into a different time and space. Gerwig cuts the film tightly, teasing us for more, every step of the way.

The major theme of the film is how love and attention are the same things. How loving something or someone is paying attention to every little detail of their life. That is exactly what Marion does to her daughter. She pays attention. And that is exactly what Kyle doesn’t do with “Lady Bird”. He doesn’t even know who her best friend is and doesn’t bother to ask her about her favourite song. Which is ironically ‘Crash Into Me’ by The Dave Matthews Band. we can see how the story pans out around this theme and how “Lady Bird”, even though hateful of her hometown, comes to find some peace with it.

Revolving around recognition, gratitude, self-imagination, reconciliation and a lot of other difficult-to-say emotions, Lady Bird takes the viewer on a tour down the memory lane. Of high school and figuring out the world. Of college and the Future. Of past loves and the forever Family.

Janaki Tulshibagwale

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