Lady Bird (2017)
November 13, 2017 11:16 AM - Subscribe

Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, a fiercely independent teenager, tries to make her own way in the world while wanting to get out of her hometown of Sacramento, California & to get away from her complicated mother & recently-unemployed father.
posted by GuyZero (31 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This was a wonderful coming-of-age film that I think everyone should see. Wonderful performances, well written, very evocative.

Perhaps I am biased by having a daughter the same age as the main character in the film and some of the arguments between the mother and daughter onscreen were a little too real. Way, way too real.
posted by GuyZero at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2017

I’m dying to see this because of the use of my favourite Monkees song in the trailer!
posted by gnuhavenpier at 11:19 AM on November 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I liked it a bunch, and I can now say pretty confidently that when I previously thought I liked Noah Baumbach movies, the truth appears to be that I actually just really like Greta Gerwig movies.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 11:45 AM on November 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

But, one thing I'm curious about: what did people make of the scene where the priest was talking to Lady Bird's mom about not being able to direct plays anymore?
posted by the phlegmatic king at 11:46 AM on November 13, 2017

I though he was maybe suicidal - she asked if he had support for when he had "these feelings" or something. I wasn't exactly sure what to make of it really. It was ambiguous to the extreme of almost being a non-sequitur. But maybe I just didn't get it.
posted by GuyZero at 11:47 AM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

That makes sense; I figured it had to be either something like that, or a weird dropped subplot about him struggling with feelings for one of the kids, which would be a big tonal departure from the rest of the movie. I think you're right that it felt like a non-sequitur; I can talk myself into some plot-structure reasons for it to be there, but it stuck out as the only odd note in a movie I loved.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 11:51 AM on November 13, 2017

The scene with the priest was one of the few scenes that didn't have Lady Bird/Christine in it (there were a couple others with her mom). I felt like it was just a way to show her mom's compassion and understanding. It was kind of an oddly place scene, though, I agree with that.

I really loved how this movie was paced. All the scenes were just as long as they needed to be and while sometimes the transitions felt a little abrupt, it worked. It reminded me the way we remember things -- we jump from moment to moment (and sometimes those moments are longer) and those things form a narrative of our lives.

I appreciated the sensitivity and empathy that Gerwig showed toward young women. Lady Bird was a bit hard to take sometimes, but it rang true. I loved watching her navigate her life and trying on different roles and attitudes. I'm glad, that while it had a conclusion, it didn't feel neatly tied up. There was no major revelation; just a coming to a place of understanding.

It was, in a lot of ways, a lot quieter than I thought it was going to be but that actually made me like it more. Most of the funniest lines were in the trailer, but I'm glad it was just a constant deluge of wit/sarcasm. It was a lot sweeter than that.

I'm a huge Gerwig fan and a Baumbach fan, but I think she has a stronger voice on her own (and she's been a bigger influence of his work than he has been on hers). I'm really excited to see what she does next. This was just so lovely and effortless and accomplished. I'm all for women telling more stories like this about women.
posted by darksong at 12:10 PM on November 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Not to derail discussion of the larger plot of the movie in general, but my take on the scene between the mom and the priest was that he had some terminal illness, and she wanted to make sure that he was going to be taken care of through whatever came next. He already knew about whatever it was, which was why he cried so quickly and deeply during the crying game scene, and why he took it so hard that people didn't seem to "get" the play he directed because it was his last.
posted by Krazor at 2:32 PM on November 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

The scene with the priest was one of the few scenes that didn't have Lady Bird/Christine in it (there were a couple others with her mom). I felt like it was just a way to show her mom's compassion and understanding.

my take on the scene between the mom and the priest was that he had some terminal illness

Interesting -- my take was also that he tried to kill himself, but that he was also closeted gay. That scene came immediately after Lady Bird was comforting Danny and promising him that she wouldn't tell, and the mom is also telling the priest that she won't tell. I took it as showing that for all of their differences and arguments, Lady Bird and Mom were really cut from the same caring cloth.
posted by knownassociate at 7:33 AM on November 14, 2017 [9 favorites]

I was puzzled by the scene with the priest too (to the point of asking the person I saw it with) but until I came here, I just assumed that I was the only one who needed to ask.
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:36 PM on November 14, 2017

I loved this movie. An almost perfect slice-of-life, coming-of-age film--probably my favorite movie this year. The only false note for me was the football coach subbing for the theater director. The comedy was too broad there, too removed from plausibility, and it didn't fit the tone of the rest of the movie. But that was one small moment in an otherwise incredible film. There aren't many movies I see at the theater twice, but I think I'm going to make an exception for this one.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:07 AM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

My favorite thing was "Eternal Fire" as a choice of prom theme. That and Lady Bird and Julie's friendship.

I liked this a lot. The placement of "Little Plastic Castle"? Perfect.
posted by minsies at 3:11 PM on December 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

The attention to detail, especially on the clothes and aesthetic of the era, were impressive.
Even minor characters had detail. This really impressed me.

And although I loved it, as a white woman about 5 years older than the main character, it felt very white for 2017.
posted by k8t at 12:52 PM on December 3, 2017

Very white, but at least Miguel and Shelly were there. (Probably not too far off in terms of school composition for a Catholic, tuition-based high school in 2002?)

I really liked that Miguel's background - obviously different from the rest of his family - went without comment.
posted by minsies at 3:41 PM on December 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

My wife caught that there's a hint of it in one of the letters Lady Bird's mom writes. It calls Lady Bird a miracle - extrapolating from that: she had trouble getting pregnant and adopted Miguel, later Lady Bird showed up as a surprise. But there's no reason to comment on all that for most of the movie, since it's what they've been living with their whole lives. It's all very well handled.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:33 PM on December 4, 2017 [9 favorites]

I LOVED this movie so much. It was just almost perfect. I was a teen in Sacramento (10 years earlier than Gerwig, during Gulf War I, but not too much has changed) and it was just so true.

Re: the scene with the priest: My take was, the mom is a psych nurse and works at the psych hospital, and the priest is mysteriously absent from work, so I think it's safe to assume he was feeling suicidal or had an attempt at suicide and is admitted at the psych hospital and just happened to be assigned to Lady Bird's mom as his nurse. She's doing her nursing assessment as psych nurses do.

We never get to see her showing unconditional love in the movie - this is the scene to show us the mom loves and feels deep compassion. She is good at her work and can listen and pay attention with criticizing. Because of her own childhood with an abusive, alcoholic mother, she is incapable of showing that uncritical love to her teen daughter, but we need to see she has that side to her I think. (It's also important that we see her compassion and generosity through the brother's girlfriend's eyes, and it seems implied that the parents adopted Lady Bird's brother which further seems to signal a compassionate spirit).

Additionally, this little scene shows there is a parallel, complicated grown up world adjacent to Lady Bird's protected world. It's a little suggestion of where life is going for Lady Bird who is relatively free.

I don't think we need to know the specifics of the priest's suffering. He clearly suffers - in this scene and the one where he has them all practice crying, we see he has some deep pain and loneliness. I found his character maybe the most affecting in the movie.

I also didn't have a problem with this being a largely white movie. This shows a very specific time and place and context - a largely white one - but not in a way that says "this is normal, this is what everyone is or should be". It's just one story. I think as long as we keep expanding who gets to make movies and what movies they get to make to put people of color to the front, of course there will still be a space for white stories too. They just need to stop dominating. Of movies I've seen in the last few years, this one reminded me most of Moonlight, for it's understated realism and beauty and specificity and compassion.

For me the one slightly sour note was Julie. There was a hint of the lonely fat girl trope and I was mad that she was just crying alone when Lady Bird dumped her. But she also had some spunk - like the scene where she puts her nickname in quotes like Lady Bird, or when Lady Bird is pressuring her to skip class and she refuses.

Anyhow, I just adored this movie.
posted by latkes at 8:38 PM on December 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

I thought this was really great.
posted by graventy at 7:38 AM on December 7, 2017

I adore this movie with all my heart. But, to the point of whether or not the cast was too white, here is a 2002 Time article about Sacramento entitled Welcome to America's Most Diverse City.

So it goes in America's most integrated city, as determined in research for TIME by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University. In Sacramento everyone's a minority—including whites. Of the city's inhabitants, 41% are non-Hispanic white, 15.5% are black, 22% are Hispanic and 17.5% are Asian/Pacific Islander. Although many cities are diverse (think New York City or Los Angeles), in Sacramento people seem to live side by side more successfully. The city got that way thanks in part to affordable real estate for middle-class households (the black population has dropped in the Bay Area but increased in Sacramento over the past 10 years) as well as innovative housing programs for low-income families. In addition, state-government agencies and college campuses are sprinkled throughout the city, providing stable, well-paid, equal-opportunity employment.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:16 AM on December 7, 2017

Well, having lived in Sacramento, and my parents are still there, I'd say it is extremely segregated, and likely segregating further now if it's anything like the rest of the US. I believe 3 of the 11(?) characters in the movie are people of color. I definitely agree that this is a movie about a white community/white subculture. However, this movie community closely matches the one I was in in high school: white majority, and primarily culturally white, with people of color who experienced some racism (as is briefly discussed in this movie where Lady Bird cluelessly and offensively accuses her brother of getting into UC Berkeley because he's a POC).

I absolutely think we need more movies by, about and for people of color. Those movies need to get funded and promoted and I do and will absolutely pay to see them. This movie is a problem in that it is yet another movie largely about white people that got funding and promotion. And that's a problem.

Having said that, I think this movie reflects a very realistic community that is primarily white. In my opinion, it does so in a way that I found appropriate. Compare it to say, La La Land. Now there's a white movie that I think is quite problematically white. It utterly coopts a black music form. It's only black character exists solely to aid in the white lead's character development. And it creates a magical, beautiful world that is largely ruled by whiteness. In my opinion, Lady Bird is full of ambiguity and imperfection and doesn't hold up whiteness as superior. I think it shows a realistically segregated world.

posted by latkes at 10:33 AM on December 7, 2017 [8 favorites]

why he took it so hard that people didn't seem to "get" the play he directed because it was his last.

Couple things about that play, because it feels relevant to the movie: "Merrily We Roll Along" is a musical with songs by Stephen Sondheim, which tells a story about growing up and what happens to friendships, lovers, and big creative dreams over the course of life: only it tells the story backwards. It begins with the middle-aged characters, cynical, bitter, and fighting with each other, then through the show each scene moves back in time until it ends with them graduating from school, all bright-eyed and eager for the happy futures they're sure are before them. The original production in fact used teenaged/college aged performers, which is sometimes considered the reason it flopped, because they couldn't be quite believable as the older adults. (For the full story, see the documentary "Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened.")

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting choice here, because of how this movie is a lot about young people imagining futures; whether those dreams are at all realistic; and adults struggling with how their own lives actually turned out.
posted by dnash at 3:12 PM on December 26, 2017 [14 favorites]

As someone who has gotten into many fights about representation and whiteness on this very site, I for one am glad Lady Bird was white because this movie was already TOO FUCKING REAL for this underachieving, artistic girl who graduated from high school in a Sacramento suburb in 2005 and has a troubled relationship with her mother. If it had also reflected any of the truths of my experience as a minority in that setting I don't think I could have handled it. As it was I left the theater crying a bit next to my baffled boyfriend. That driving scene at the end where it cuts between her and her mom in the driver's seat? A+ filmmaking, but Jesus, give me time to collect myself before the credits roll.

(I'm being a little facetious about the diversity thing, obviously. But I did love this movie, even as it was a bit of a punch to the face and a warm hug all at once.)
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:27 PM on January 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

What's weird is the nearly-unwatchable Brad's Status also has Sacramento as the hometown. Is Sacramento having a famous-loser moment?
posted by GuyZero at 8:47 AM on January 8, 2018

I never saw Brad's Status, but Other People is a good recent movie that takes place in Sacramento. It's no Lady Bird, but it's really good.
posted by latkes at 10:24 AM on January 8, 2018

That driving scene at the end where it cuts between her and her mom in the driver's seat?
I spent that entire scene certain her mom was going to get in a wreck, as a payoff from the very early scene of her driving when she passed what was clearly the garish-bouquet-filled field of a cemetery (and which may have been mirrored in the cuts of that ending drive, too?). I'm really glad that's not what happened, I didn't WANT that payoff, but it affected how I watched that scene.

This movie is a problem in that it is yet another movie largely about white people that got funding and promotion. And that's a problem.
Thanks for articulating so well what I was thinking, how it can be unproblematic in its specific approach to whiteness yet still problematic by dint of its existence in our culture of whiteness.

The first thing I said when I walked out of the theater: Laurie Metcalf is one of the greatest actors of our time. (I'd already felt that way, and this movie reinforced that belief.)
posted by solotoro at 1:34 PM on January 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Just saw this and agree that it's terrific -- the specificity is great, the performances are great (the head nun!), the overall perspective of the movie is great.

Re: the priest, there's a scene after he cries in the drama club, where another kid says to Lady Bird and Danny that the priest had a teenage son who had OD'd, maybe suicide. I think that's part of the answer. I did come away from that scene in the hospital wanting to see the mom helping him to formulate a plan and a support structure. (Imagine if this were a big budget blockbuster and they made short films about each of these wonderful side characters...)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:31 PM on January 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

I feel like this was marketed as "Rushmore for girls!" or yeah, maybe "Juno without the baby!" But the actual film was considerably better than that. It has a very literary kind of structure and pace where it's less interested in giving you a series of one progresses neatly into the next scenes and more interested in letting you live with a character for a bit to give you a picture of who she is at a particular moment. It can be a little twee, but that's not because it's a hipster-y stunt, it's because it approaches a character on her own level who can be a bit twee.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:21 AM on March 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I so enjoyed this one. It felt less like a movie than an experience in deep recognition. It nailed so much about being a teenaged girl in her last year of high school, and brought back so many memories about my experience specifically. The anxiety and uncertainly over where I'd be going and what I'd be doing the next year coupled with the drive to go somewhere else, to be independent, to live a new life in a new kind of place. The high school dramatic/musical productions that we worked on so hard and took so seriously and that really weren't anything like as good as we thought they were. The hit or miss fashion and personal grooming choices, because you don't really know what looks good on you or have that discipline in place yet. The awkward and short-lived romantic flings. The way my friendships with other girls were, due to their greater stability and longevity, ultimately more meaningful and enjoyable than my romantic relationships with boys. The way my mother would go at me in a way that made me feel like giving up on life. The gay boyfriend, except that I didn't have the good fortune to find out that he was gay until long after. Tears came to my eyes during the scene in which Lady Bird's gay ex begged her not to tell anyone until he had time to figure out how to come out to his parents, and he started crying and she gave him a hug, and I murmured out loud, "If I had known, I could have been there for C. like that."

I did snicker over Lady Bird's first night with a boy. He tells her he's had a number of partners, and if that's true, it's hilarious that he's still so bad at sex. It made me realize I probably didn't miss much having to wait until college for that kind of thing (I only had two actual boyfriends in high school, and they were BOTH gay). At least when I did finally get some action, I got a guy who was good at it.
posted by orange swan at 5:24 PM on March 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

Though I liked the movie quite well, I thought this article was interesting; a more problematizing take on the film: Lady Bird, Lady Bird, What the Heck Are You?:
The internal structure of Lady Bird is, I think, unconsciously designed to evoke the monster mother and then deflect the daughterly hostility she provokes by turning things around to insist, ultimately, that the mother wasn’t a monster at all, just a loving adult too frightened to show her daughter how she feels. Maybe when Gerwig pushes past her conscious desire to sugarcoat her subject matter she may figure out what she’s trying to get at and find a fresh dramatic form for it; then, of course, she’ll lose her audience, who won’t want to hear it.
Though it must be said that the author is quite assured on how the characters would actually behave. Which can be a bit annoying at times.
posted by sapagan at 6:21 AM on March 17, 2018

I went to college in 2002 to NYC from a medium sized town anchored by a university with a mom who worked two jobs and kept insisting I go to the local CC and stay st home and I was in theatre club so I felt this .... a lot.
posted by The Whelk at 1:36 PM on April 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

That was pretty good. The second half feels a little WB.

I don't think Lady Bird is meant to be a "princess", as that article sapagan linked above suggests. I don't think we're supposed to think she has any special thing about her at all, not even her heart or spirit.

I liked Frances Ha, but Mistress America put me off Baumbach forever. It does feel like there's a similarity going on, but fortunately this movie is more like Frances Ha.

One part of my Sacramento (area) experience, missing from the film, was the miserable goddamn heat.
posted by fleacircus at 10:19 PM on April 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

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