Lady Bird Soars in This Emotional Coming-of-Age Story
- Ryan Duncan
- 2017 7 Dec
Brimming with hope, humor, and just a touch of sadness, this film about an average girl on the cusp of adulthood perfectly captures the madness and wonder of youth. Anyone who's survived the gauntlet of their teenage years is sure to see themselves in the awkward-but-lovable Lady Bird. 4.5 out of 5.
Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is your typical high school senior living in 2002 Sacramento, California. Christine has big dreams for her future, most of which involve leaving the dull suburban wasteland of her childhood and matriculating into some upscale New York university. This might prove challenging though, as she's always been a C+ student with zero extracurriculars and a rapidly shrinking bank account. Adding to the drama is Christine's turbulent relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf), which threatens to go nuclear as graduation approaches. With the final days of high school rolling near, Lady Bird spends her time falling in love, secretly applying to colleges, and mending (then subsequently breaking) fences with her family, only to discover a pristine New York lifestyle can never replace the town she calls home.
Where to begin? The performances in Lady Bird are simply incredible. Ronan and Metcalf positively steal the show. Both characters drive home formidable personalities, and while the story is undoubtedly Christine's, the scenes where they're together are when sparks really start to fly. It would have been easy for Lady Bird to hang its success on these two, but the rest of the characters are just as rich and relatable. From Christine's disenchanted older brother (Jordan Rodrigues), to her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein), and even the dueling high school crushes (Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet), not a single cast member feels wasted.
The dialogue is whip-sharp yet natural, as are many of the smaller arcs within the grand narrative. Who can't relate to schoolyard romance, pretentious classmates, big dreams, or bitter disappointments? Lastly, a note of appreciation should be made concerning Lady Bird's staging, which helps give particular scenes an extra-emotional wallop.
Great as the movie is, there are a few moments in Lady Bird which feel unnecessary, and one or two side-stories which never find any conclusion. After Christine buys cigarettes, scratchers, and a copy of Playgirl to celebrate her eighteenth birthday, viewers are treated to a brief image of full-frontal nudity. Things like this are probably meant to provoke shock or laughter from the audience, but they only succeed in killing the levity and dragging the movie down. It's also a little troubling that a character grappling with depression and suicide vanishes from the story altogether.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
Pegging the spiritual elements in Lady Bird can be a tricky game. On one hand, the majority of the film takes place at a Catholic high school, where students and faculty alike are shown attending mass and reading Scripture surrounded by images of Christ. Much of this is depicted as ritual exercise though, and Christine herself appears to be agnostic. She has little patience for religion (as revealed when she and her friend devour communion wafers like Cracker Jack) and no qualms about taking drugs, drinking alcohol, or engaging in premarital sex.
Yet despite all of this irreverence, elements of faith are still present, and even our cynical heroine isn't immune. The nuns and priests running the school are all kind, selfless, and wise. One even forgives Christine after the latter pulls a cruel prank on her, using it as a moment to profess her love for Christ. Later, while in New York, Christine finds herself defending belief in God from one of her obnoxious classmates. The movie even ends (SPOILER ALERT!) with Christine attending church. Throw in messages of love, sacrifice, forgiveness, plus the importance of family, and Lady Bird has some interesting spiritual thoughts lining its edges.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying
- Language/Profanity: Nearly every curse word makes an appearance, including particularly harsh words like c*nt, s*it, the f-word, multiple references to male and female genitalia, taking the Lord's name in vain, and frequent talk of sex and masturbation. A boy says hair curlers look like sperm, girls briefly wear shirts with suggestive language.
- Sexuality/Nudity: Talk of sex and masturbation; two boys are seen kissing, kissing and groping among students; Christine briefly has sex with a boy though nothing graphic is shown; teenagers are seen in underwear and swim suits; a girl is shown in a towel; a girl has a crush on her teacher (which is not reciprocated); girls at the school tend to wear short skirts; Christine shoves a magazine down her skirt; slow dancing at a school event; explicit images are seen while Christine reads a copy of Playgirl.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Christine jumps out of a car and breaks her arm; loud arguing between Christine and her mother; Christine is picked up by an ambulance after drinking too much, she wakes up at the hospital and finds out she's sharing a room with a young boy who has a bandage over his eye; most notable though is an assembly where a woman is shown talking about abortion, some plastic fetuses are seen, and Christine is inexcusably rude to the presenter, for which she is suspended.
Drugs/Alcohol: Teenagers smoke pot and get high; several characters drink beer; characters smoke cigarettes (both clove and regular); Christine drinks too much her first night of college and goes to the hospital; medication for cancer and depression are seen.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Mothers and daughters, the nostalgic, theater geeks, coming-of-age genre fans, those looking for something fresh in theaters, viewers who love stories with great characters.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Families, small children, Christian viewers with a low tolerance for objectionable material, audiences who prefer simpler themes and conflicts.
Lady Bird, directed by Greta Gerwig, opened in limited theaters November 3, 2017, wider throughout November. It runs 93 minutes and stars Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Jordan Rodrigues and Tracy Letts. Watch the trailer for Lady Bird here.
Ryan Duncan is Entertainment Editor for Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: December 7, 2017
Image courtesy: ©A24