Film & Television

Mother-Daughter Bond is at the Heart of Soaring Lady Bird

Because as poignant as much of Lady Bird is, it’s also at times very funny. A boy urges Lady Bird not to worry whether sex means anything or not: “You’re going to have so much meaningless sex in your life!” Larry dismisses sympathy about where he is with clever retorts: “I’m like Keith Richards; I’m just happy to be anywhere.” Lady Bird wants to ingratiate herself with the school’s pretty (and pretty vacuous) queen bee, so she plots revenge on her behalf, taping a “Just married … to Jesus” sign on the back of a nun’s car. Happily, the nun in question, the marvelous Lois Smith (recently of Marjorie Prime, has both a sense of humor and a genuine fondness for Lady Bird.

Truly, it’s impossible not to feel tenderness toward Lady Bird. (“Yes, that’s my given name. I gave it. To myself.”) Her guidance counselor actually laughs when Lady Bird gives her a list of colleges she’d like to apply to. “My job is to make you realistic,” she explains. “That seems to be everybody’s job,” is Lady Bird’s response. Like most high school seniors, she does stupid things, some really stupid things. And, she isn’t always nice. In fact, one of the most refreshing plot twists occurs when she has an irresistible opportunity to become a mean girl herself and … well … chooses not to resist it. Her own journey and some fairly significant missteps enable her to self-correct with blessed little permanent damage.

When I was experiencing some (classic and utterly commonplace) frustration raising my own teen daughter, a colleague assured me that it was natural. The mother-daughter bond is so strong that it has to sever in a fairly dramatic way or we can never disconnect. (Or, as he put it, “If they don’t become terrible to live with at the end, you can’t let them go.”) Lady Bird is a brilliant little movie that deals with many different concepts, ideas both big and small. But, the most powerful at its center is the relationship between Lady Bird and Marion. It is harsh and funny and sometimes hard to watch. But it is undeniably and eternally there.

Greta Gerwig deserves her 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. (Actually, one particularly ill-tempered blogger just gave her a “rotten tomato,” bringing her score down to a 99%, no doubt in a ploy to make a name for himself after all the film’s publicity. I won’t give him the satisfaction here.) Lady Bird is very special and it’s wonderfully entertaining.

I think we can count on much more from its intelligent and talented creator in the future.

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  • Anne Van Breedam January 1, 2018 at 1:38 am

    Would like to be kept in the loop of current showings.