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Review: Forget the Oscars, 'Lady Bird' soars on its own path

Posted Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at 12:02 PM Central
Last updated Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at 12:04 PM Central

by John Couture

Lady Bird is one of those films that sticks with you. Unlike other Oscar-nominated films that fade from your memory once they lose, Lady Bird is going to be the film from 2017 that I feel most people will remember five years or a decade from now.

Actor Greta Gerwig transcends into writer and director Greta Gerwig and the result is a poignant coming of age film that really scratches the facade of reality - acne and all. The film is set during 2002-03 or at the time when Gerwig would have been a senior in high school and the location of Sacramento is likewise the same in the film and Gerwig's life. So, to say that this is a highly personal story for Greta Gerwig would be an understatement.

Lady Bird follows a teen over the course of her senior year in high school who butts heads with her mother to the extent that she has rechristened herself with the moniker Lady Bird in lieu of her given name Christine. The film follows her desire to establish her identity and escape Sacramento with some interesting insights along the way.



The film is instantly relatable and unlike 95% of other coming-of-age films, Lady Bird features a female protagonist. The film further sets itself apart by not glossing up the edges like say The Edge of Seventeen. No, Lady Bird captures this important time in a young woman's life, acne and all, without trying to airbrush away its flaws. The result is a film that not only rings true but Lady Bird is able to connect with both male and female audiences because it almost feels like we are simply reminiscing about our own memories from high school.

Having been born and raised Catholic myself, I even attended an all-boys Catholic high school, so I could definitely relate to the religious and sexual discovery situations in the film. Don't worry, if you're not familiar with Catholicism, Greta Gerwig paints with a broad stroke here and you will have no problem following along. And besides Lady Bird herself isn't Catholic, so all of the religious elements are seen through her outsider eyes which helps the audience along.

It is no surprise that Saoirse Ronan was nominated for Best Actress for her performance as Lady Bird. She delivers a powerful performance of a young woman trying to reconcile her wants and desires with her heritage. She was literally born on the wrong side of the tracks but dreams of a world in New York where she can have a better life.

As her journey progresses to escape the only home she has ever known, she experiences several life events that we all address at one point or another. In many ways, her journey of self-exploration is one that eventually uncovers some rather stubborn truths in life. Despite our protestations, more often than not we are a product of our parents and it's not easy to deny that.

As someone who also aspired to leave home after high school, I could relate to many of the same frustrations and roadblocks that Lady Bird experienced. And yet, the fiery contrarian attitude that ultimately led Lady Bird to anoint herself with that moniker is precisely the qualities she inherited from her mom. They say that in order to truly appreciate someplace, you have to leave. This is true for places such as our hometown or periods of time such as high school.

Lady Bird gives the older audiences a flashback to the challenges of a pivotal moment in their lives with the sort of familiarity that is reassuring. Again, Lady Bird could be any of us or all of us. We have been there and survived and no matter where Lady Bird is in life now 15 years later, she would be proud of her journey and appreciative of her hometown.

As for that whole being shut out at the Oscars thing, I have to crib from Letterboxd user Jeffrey Knight who said it perfectly.

Lady Bird: I have an "Oscar."

The Academy: Were you awarded that?

Lady Bird: Yeah.

The Academy: Why is it in quotes?

Lady Bird: I awarded it to myself. It was awarded to me by me.

This is the spirit of the film summed up in one snippet of conversation. Lady Bird doesn't need an Oscar for validation. The true measure of success for this film will be its legion of fans that continue to rewatch it years and years from no.

Lady Bird is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.