I saw Lady Bird a week ago. And since then, I’ve been struggling with myself about how to review it. Though the film has received critical acclaim (and all my friends told me I would love it), I felt like there was something missing from my viewing experience. I even wondered if I’d seen the same movie as everyone else.
This coming of age story centers around Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento. She struggles with her sense of identity, her place in the world, and her relationship with her mother. The film spans the entire year, so there isn’t much of a unifying plot (although if you were in high school in the early 2000s, there’s probably a lot in here that will resonate with you, like the music, the fashion, the feeling that you just can’t get out of your parent’s house fast enough…). But plot or no plot, the audience follows Lady Bird through her trials and tribulations as she experiences first loves, goes through the hardships of high school friendship, and tries to decide where to go to college.
Now don’t get me wrong. There were lots of things in the film that I enjoyed. The dialogue was refreshingly real. Saoirse Ronan’s performance is believable and flawed in all the right ways. But overall, I couldn’t help the feeling that I’d seen this movie before. I’m sure that this will sound sacrilegious to those who loved Lady Bird, but in a lot of ways it felt like a less funny version of Saved.
It probably didn’t help matters that I saw Call Me By Your Name the very next day. I tried not to compare the films, but the English major in me couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie. From afar, the films are shockingly similar. They both address the pivotal, formative, strange, and exciting years of late adolescence. Both Christine/Lady Bird and Elio are trying to figure out who they are, what they like, and how they fit in with the people in their worlds. They’re eager for love, but don’t know how (or what) to give of themselves. Each of the films portrays their respective stories in unconventional, indy-ish ways: slow, sweeping shots interspersed with quick cuts, good music, and jumps that sometimes leave you guessing. But at the end of the day, Elio’s story is the one that stuck with me. It’s the love story that I wished I’d gotten from Lady Bird. It’s the character development I wished I’d gotten from Lady Bird. It’s a movie that I want to watch again and again and again.
Lady Bird has many strengths, and I look forward to seeing more work from Saoirse and director Greta Gerwig. But I can’t say that I hope it wins Best Picture. So should you watch it? If you want to experience (or remember) what it was like to be in high school, sure. If you enjoy complex mother-daughter relationship movies, sure. If you’re into angst, sure. I’ll just be here, watching Call Me By Your Name on repeat.
Already seen it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Until next time,
The Collected Mutineer