I was told by friends and family that I would love the female-directed, female-led Lady Bird. I finally got around to watching it, and was, unfortunately, extremely disappointed.
Lady Bird is sold as the coming-of-age story of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a high school senior in Sacramento, California, and the tumultuous relationship that she must navigate with her mother, Marion. Lady Bird grows up in Sacramento, California, and dreams of moving (and eventually does go) to New York City for college, even though it would make more financial sense for her to go to a state school in California.
Lady Bird is incredibly self-absorbed and unlikable, and, other than in a few compelling moments, does not seem concerned with her family’s situation.
While we are told that Lady Bird comes from a middle-to-lower-class family and attends an expensive private school thanks to a scholarship and Marion working double shifts as a nurse even after Lady Bird’s father (who has depression) loses his job, it is mostly treated as a background to Lady Bird’s emotional journey, which has a lot more to do with boys and prom rather than pressing problems of money and mental health that face her family. At the end of the film, when Lady Bird goes off to college, the majority of their financial problems miraculously seem to disappear without Birdy’s involvement.
Birdy is illogical, highly emotional to the point of unrealism, and is your “typical TV teenage girl” incapable of just a little bit of perspective, logic, or empathy. Lady Bird is incredibly awful to her best friend, frequently insults Marion, treating her almost as a disposable parent, and throws tantrums whenever something doesn’t go her way.
There were very few genuine moments between Lady Bird and her mother.
I saw the film more as a depiction of the relationship between a stereotypically angsty teenage girl and her father, her friends, and her boyfriends. Marion and most of the other mothers in the film are instantly seen as “the evil/bad parents,” while the father figures are kind and shield their daughters from everything. Lady Bird’s best friend, Julie, even (unrealistically) prefers Matt, her mother’s new boyfriend, to the woman who singlehandedly raised her.
My senior year of high school isn’t too far behind me, and while I know my experience isn’t every girl’s, I believe all of my female friends were quite capable of dealing with their emotions, being empathetic towards others, and focusing on things beyond themselves, boys, and prom. Most of us were concerned with familial problems and how our college decisions would affect our families and our futures. Lady Bird‘s portrayal of teenage girl life seemed to me unrealistic to the point of caricature. Perhaps I expected too much of the film, but despite my similar experiences–having once been a teenage girl in my senior year of high school, a suburban Californian upbringing, and a conflict with my mother to go to New York for college–I found that I could not connect at all to Lady Bird, or to any other character in the film.
I did like some things about the film, though.
- I’ve been a fan of Laurie Metcalf’s (Marion’s) acting since I first saw her on The Big Bang Theory, and she does not disappoint here. I almost think that this film focused on the wrong person: Marion’s journey (dealing with her financial situation, her husband’s mental health problems, and a teenage daughter in her sixties) seemed far more well-thought-out to me.
- The visuals of Sacramento were just stunning, and the divide between being from the “right” and “wrong” side of the tracks at Birdy’s elite prep school was very well done.
- Even if Lady Bird didn’t resonate at all for me, I think it’s incredible that this movie was female-written, -directed, and -led. For reference, 13% of films are written by women, and only 7% of films are female-directed.
Ultimately, Lady Bird just wasn’t for me.
Lady Bird was angsty, overwhelmingly self-centered, and illogical. While I know I certainly wasn’t perfect at that age and am not perfect today, I refuse to believe that Lady Bird accurately represents most teenage girls today or any day.