by Hallie Underwood ’20
Lady Bird official trailer courtesy A24 Youtube channel.
Short brown hair: fuschia at the edges. Flared jeans, a bright pink wrist cast or a polka dot prom dress found on the racks at the local thrift store. A stubborn attitude and a philosophical way of thinking. Meet Christine McPherson – well, meet “Lady Bird”.
Growing up in California, Lady Bird (portrayed by Saoirse Ronan) feels trapped in her mediocre math grade, the songs she sings in church pillars, and the outdated home found on “the wrong side of the train tracks”. A made-up role to fit her into the school play and a mother, Marion McPherson (played by Laurie Metcalf) that is out of touch with every “anarchist” attitude towards growing up in the town, Lady Bird begins to see the palm trees that line the streets of Sacramento as temporary sight-seeing until she is ready to leave the loathsome life behind and write in New York City.
Her bedroom depicts the radical imagery: pastel pink walls are shielded by student government campaign posters depict her mind’s imagery: the head of a bird in a Catholic school uniform, and just above her headboard, “Danny” and “Kyle”, names once written neatly in black pen, are scribbled through.
Danny (played by Peter Hedges) meets Lady Bird at a grocery store, and a simple conversation about growing up Catholic sends Lady Bird into the drowning spiral of lovesickness before Danny is pulled away to attend to his boisterous younger siblings. The young man is first portrayed as a brutal cliche: the blond boy shares a sparkling grin with his often rather quirky love interest, and a romance commences as the wedding bells ring in the protagonist’s ear. In the theater, I shoved a handful of popcorn in my mouth and awaited the shrunken heartbreak and the elaborate happy ending. If you are looking for this film, I suggest “Love Actually” or “The Notebook” or any other romance flick besides “La La Land” (too soon?).
Lady Bird finds Danny hooking up with a man in a bathroom stall, provoking maybe one of the most heartbreaking scenes I have ever witnessed. In the angered confrontation, Lady Bird interrupts Danny’s utterance about her mother’s kind heart and scary undertone to simply say, “You’re gay”. With long, dismal sobs into Lady Bird’s shoulder, Danny expresses fears of telling his family. While Lady Bird may have thought she had felt a human connection when participating in a kiss at the western-themed homecoming dance, the relationship between Lady Bird and Danny means so much more in this moment.
Kyle (played by Timothee Chalamet) is a guitar player, bound for success in the shadowy atmosphere of his coffee shop gigs. When Lady Bird meets Kyle, he is drinking a green tea and soaking in this gloomy weather on the patio, engaged in A People’s History of the United States. Dark curls cover the corners of his eyes as he winks, stating: “I wish you had been” when Lady Bird is pulled away and accused of flirting. Kyle’s beautiful locks and edgy personality override the monotone voice and impeccability of his presence, leaving Lady Bird to face a difficult conversation after sacrificing her innocence to a man in a green, unbuttoned shirt, telling her she will make pointless love for the rest of her life. Her mother picks her up on his front lawn, marking a pivotal moment in the broken mother-daughter relationship.
Black ink smudges where the wall meets Lady Bird’s ceiling, and the love booming between her love interests quickly shifts as she regains self-confidence. Sorting through college rejection letters, she finds that her name had been placed on a waitlist in New York. As she rekindles her relationships with her mother, father, and best friend, Julie Steffens (portrayed by Beanie Feldstein), Lady Bird takes a leap towards independence to find herself, the appreciation for Marion and the infatuation she always possessed for the palm trees lining the streets of Sacramento.
In a rather moving scene, the priest stands before the students, each joined in navy argyle sweaters. A silence erupts, one that could shatter the stained glass windows above them, as the sinking realization of adolescence is plastered across their faces. Lady Bird stares curiously into the distance, her hands holding her cheeks as she processes intently.
The priest admits,“We’re afraid of what the future might bring. We’re afraid we won’t be loved, we won’t be liked, and we won’t succeed.”
Greta Gerwig’s film debut portrays a timeless sense of cinematography. Using a series of grainy reds and oranges, the life of Lady Bird begins to make me feel like life is more beautiful than what I have begun to presume. In many ways, I see myself in Lady Bird. I am a high school student, angered by my biology grade and often feeling stuck in my hometown. There are times when I feel the absence of friendship or am daydreaming about a boy with beautiful locks that cover the corner of his eyes. Admittedly, I want to see Columbus, Ohio as a touring destination so I have no problem leaving John Glenn International for JFK so I can write in New York City and never call Upper Arlington my home again.
But, like Lady Bird, I am afraid. I’m afraid I’ll rebel in hopes of finding myself and come to realize I’ve only distanced myself from who I really was. I’m afraid the absence of friendship may become more than just a nettlesome feeling: I’m afraid that when I’m lonely, I’ll really be alone. I’m afraid the string of words I decide to put together for the world are suffocated by other drafts in an editor’s wastebasket but I know I’ll be humbled when I call my mom and she lifts my spirits.
Lady Bird leaves severed ends: Mr. McPherson is diagnosed with depression and Marion never answers the cell phone call. There is a vulnerability there, though, as life is never effortlessly tied together with a beautiful ribbon. In every scene, Gerwig is sure to depict what growing up and mending relationships is like and depicts the raw, unfiltered life of Lady Bird as nothing but a piece of art.