Ladies Don't Spread Their Legs, Only Their Wings
Directed by Greta Gerwig
As I embark on my journey to watch more movies, its becoming clear when I watch a film that closely tells the personal story of its creator. A friend and I recently watched The Half of Itdirected by Alice Wu. The recurring scene of Paul and Ellie drinking a peculiar bottled smoothie had my friend questioning why the bottled drink kept reappearing in different scenes. I responded confidently, “The director used to drink it as a kid.” As I further understand the elements that make a good script, I am understanding how important – and how interesting – it can be to write what you know. Most films have some sort of hint of the director’s personal life, but no film has struck me more as a personal tale from the director’s past more than Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird.
Cristine is a senior in high school and still living at home in Sacramento, CA. She’s trying to navigate the stickiness that this year of “lasts” inevitably brings – college applications, senior prom, boys, and most notably in this film, a relationship with her outspoken and brutally honest mother. We follow Cristine, self-proclaimed “Lady Bird,” throughout the year as she does what many of us do when we are eager to leave our home town: reject everything about life’s current situation. She rejects her name, she hates her Catholic school, the rejects her best friend to hang with a more exclusive crowd, and she most certainly rejects Sacramento, which she calls “the Midwest of California.” Lady Bird cannot wait to get out and be in places of lively culture on the east coast.
Lady Bird opts out of telling her mother that she’s going to school in New York, and she finds out in a suboptimal setting. Her mother refuses to speak to her during the summer months, and doesn’t even turn her head to say goodbye as Lady Bird enters the airport to jet off to school. Although she exudes a tough exterior, the further she drives from the airport, the more tears cloud her vision of Sacramento’s highway signs.
In the final scene, Lady Bird calls her parents from her new setup in New York. Directing a comment to her mom, she says “Did you feel emotional the first time you drove around Sacramento? I did, and I wanted to tell you, but we weren’t really talking when it happened.” As this voicemail continues, I could resonate with the deep connections Lady Bird made to both her mother and her hometown. This statement encompasses the entire film in one piece of dialogue, and as she hangs up, the film ends with a warm, nostalgic note.
The year I graduated high school is already a personal soft spot. The final months of high school marked a point of stability I may never reencounter in my life again. I had a solid friend group, I had decided where I was going to school, my mom still did my laundry, I had a simple job at Chick-fil A, and I was cheerleading. I was genuinely happy. I cried at graduation because I didn’t want it to end, and like Lady Bird, I too often took the long way home just to admire Roswell and all the places that had raised me. I carried sense of present nostalgia because I knew that for better or for worse, my life would never look the same again.
So while I didn’t relate to Lady Bird’s rejection of where she wanted to be, I did relate to a lot of the moments she shared throughout this film. I too went to prom with my best friend rather than a boy. It was only the two of us in the car on the way to the dance, because everyone else thought they were too cool for it. We listened to throwback music on the way there, particularly “Ridin’ Solo” by Jason Derulo. I can relate as she and her best friend sing “Crash” by John Mayer in their car together. I can relate to feeling life you run the school – like the teachers in the school should respect you as a fellow adult because you, in fact, are 18 now and can buy cigarettes and lottery tickets. This was such an exciting coming of age period filled with new freedoms, and because this was all so recent for me, I connected deeply. Had I been far gone from this period, I’m unsure if I would have felt the same way about this film.
But I might have been able to make the same connection because of the amazing character development throughout this story. Lady Bird’s behaviors are nuanced; her actions a mosaic of both rebellion and poise, of roughness yet gentleness. Great Gerwig’s personal touches, the set design, the costume design, and the cinematography – especially the beautiful golden shots of the golden state – made me feel at home and comfortable in the hands of such an honest director. This review is incomplete without talking about Saoirse Ronan’s acting. I was so touched by her sometimes theatrical responses to situations. She was able to take a dynamic and adapting character and truly portray her in all her complexities. While I knew at the core who she was as a character, I was also on my toes and ready for the next curveball of behavior she was going to throw my way.
I have nothing but warm and fuzzy feelings about this movie. It was a nice pat on the back, as May has passed and so have the time-hops and old memories of graduation, senior week, senior parties, and other monumental events as such. Not only was I left reminiscing, but mourning for the seniors who celebrated their graduations with a drive by, their proms in their living rooms, and their spring breaks from their front yards. This sweet coming of age film is one I would recommend to anyone, but for the class of 2020, it might be a little too soon.