“I hate California, I want to go to the East Coast. I want to go where culture is like, New York, or Connecticut or New Hampshire” declared Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a coming-of-age film steeped in nostalgia, adolescence and — even further — dedicated to her native town of Sacramento.
Gerwig’s affection for her town is depicted with gorgeous shots of Sacramento landmarks, shown when her mom, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), drove her around in the first scene of the film. Ronan’s ability to channel that teenage angst helps us empathize with Lady Bird as we see the way the contentious relationship with her mother shapes her actions and personality. Her hair is dyed red, she wants to be called Lady Bird instead of Christine and she doesn’t want to attend a California school. Like any teenager searching for their place in the world, she tries out different sides of herself, joining the theater department with her best friend, Julie (played wonderfully by Beanie Feldstein), and spending time with the cool girl, Jenna (Odeya Rush).
While Lady Bird navigates the waters of the last years of her adolescence, we see her dating woes drowned out by the music of “Crash into Me” by Dave Matthews. Lady Bird’s experience with guys is relatable and depicted painfully well when her boyfriend, Kyle (Timothée Chalamet) tells her, “You’re going to have so much un-special sex in your life.”
Gerwig is best known for “Mistress America” and “Frances Ha,” in which she serves as both screenwriter and lead actress for frequent collaborator (and boyfriend) Noah Baumbach. His films feature quirky characters, abrupt and open-ended conclusions and people unsure of their place in society. It’s no wonder she mined her experiences to bring this semi-autobiographical story to life, giving “Lady Bird” a texture similar to any Baumbach story, in the best way possible.
This film will sit with you and make you reach out to a family member and wax nostalgic for days because of Lady Bird’s journey. What “Lady Bird” tells us is that we might hate the place where we come from, but we wouldn’t be who we are without those experiences.
Featured Photo: Lucas Hedges plays Danny O’Neill in Lady Bird, and Saoirse Ronan plays lead Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson in Lady Bird. A24.