Sacramento, 2002. Cry Me A River has just been released, beaded bracelets are in and America is still shaken from 9/11. The self named Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) is sick of her suburban life, and wants to study in the cool, writerly East Coast. But there are obstacles. Cristine ‘Ladybird’ McPherson aims to make her way to college by joining musical theatre club, trying to improve her math and biding her time with a couple of romantic mishaps and multiple fights with her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf.
Greta Gerwig, like in previous writing credit Frances Ha, writes a girl who is balsy, often selfish, and ‘weird’, as the ‘popular’ high school girl names Ladybird on prom night. In her directorial debut, Gerwig always keeps us on the weird girl’s side, writing and directing in tandem for the first time, the fast paced narrative keeps us running alongside Ladybird as she desperately rushes to adulthood and out of Sacramento. Gerwig lets us into the most personal moments, with a fantastic scene where Ladybird loses her virginity to bassist Kyle (Timothée Chalamet), gets a nose bleed, then exclaims ‘who the fuck has sex on top the first time!’ as she leaves. She is a defiant pink-haired individual, but Gerwig keeps her from being all too likeable: we know there’s plenty of learning curves headed for Ladybird.
Unlike most teen dramas, it is not the boys who influence the narrative. The scenes between Lady Bird and the women in her life are the ones that make this film, especially with her mother. Metcalf and Ronan play the warring mother-daughter relationship with great honesty that any woman would understand all too well. There are arguments in changing rooms and cars that feel so familiar, but have Gerwig’s chirpy wit that keeps the film constantly alive. The attention to class relations is a large part of the film I didn’t expect, although it adds a great dynamic to Ronan’s character. Her desire is for something more, to want more money, a big house, and her dream job. It is this desire for something more than her lot that causes Ladybird to ditch her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) for the rich kids and ensure her mothers wrath as she is ashamed to be dropped off at school in their car.
It is the riches of life Ladybird attempts to learn, and its not money or bad sex, but the connections we have with each other. Gerwig’s frequent shots of the beautiful sunny Californian town show a halcyon of adolescence that Ladybird realises is going all too late. The warm oranges and pinks will make any female cinema goer nostalgic for the innocent days of overdecorating bedrooms, fancying people from afar and having a best friend. It’s smart, it’s fun, and most of all, it’s a reminder of the uncompromising teenage girl in all of us that didn’t take any shit.
Words, Holly Bond, @bondhollybond
Photo credit: EmpireOnline
Giphy credit: Giphy @A24