Coming of age movies are some of the most important yet tricky movies to master. The teenage experience is so unique and sacred in a way that capturing it in film so many people can relate to is very difficult. For example, I love Perks of Being a Wallflower. It felt completely authentic to my experience, like someone had been filming my friends and I in high school; yet, I know others who that film rings completely false. I also love Juno, which many people find overwrought and annoying. To me it is funny and sweet, and I love it. Dazed and Confused and Dirty Dancing are two more favorites. However, other films like Edge of 17 or The Breakfast Club that others love don’t work for me. Today I went to see the latest entry in the genre, Lady Bird and for the most part I enjoyed it. I didn’t LOVE it like many seem to but it was good (I have a feeling this movie will be this year’s La La Land where merely liking it isn’t enough for some people. Sigh).
Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan (who I adored as an older character in Brooklyn) as a senior in high school in Sacramento (my parents lived in Sacramento for 9 years so I recognized many of the locations!). She is a sullen, angry teen who hates Sacramento and mostly hates her Mother. This is similar to the character in Edge of 17 but with a little bit more warmth than that film. I’m not going to lie I find this type of teenage character very uncomfortable to watch as it was totally me as a teen. I was pretty grumpy and hated my small town/parents who had a small baby at the time. I wanted nothing more than to get away from all of them and spread my wings (luckily I was also a die hard Mormon so didn’t get into much trouble!).
Still, whenever I watch these kinds of movies I want to call my Mother and apologize for how horrible I was. I remember one time throwing a book at my Dad because I was so angry at him. Another time storming up the stairs in one of the rare instances of my life I used profanity against my Mother. I remember feeling like nobody was listening to me. One time I screamed at my whole family “you’re the weird ones. I’m the normal one except in my own house”. LOL. I was not pleasant to live with. I’m not saying this as a knock against the movie. I’m just trying to give some context into my response.
Lady Bird’s mother is played brilliantly by Laurie Metcalf. In fact, I kind of wish the movie was about her rather than her daughter. She’s a very interesting character where Lady Bird I’ve seen many times before. She loves her daughter but also finds her a royal pain, something most parents of sullen teenagers can relate to.
I also loved Lucas Hedges in this as Lady Bird’s first boyfriend. He is rapidly becoming one of my favorite young actors with his performances in this, Manchester by the Sea, and 3 Billboards. He felt very authentic and gave the movie some of the warmth I was missing in Edge of 17.
I know some people don’t like the glib dialogue in Juno and if that is the case then you will love Lady Bird. It’s very well done and feels authentic and natural. I prefer the more comedic, heightened dialogue of Diablo Cody but this is executed well.
I do have some negatives for Lady Bird. First, I did not feel the second boyfriend played by Timothee Chalamet worked. He didn’t feel authentic or real to a high school student and it was just bland. Perhaps this is because I loved Lucas Hedges’ raw performance so much that the new boyfriend fell flat? I’m not sure, but I didn’t like those scenes.
Also the movie should have ended with her leaving for college. Instead it goes on for another 15 minutes or so and this was anticlimactic. They had the perfect ending and stretched it on too long. I don’t know if I completely bought Lady Bird, with her personality, going for the popular girl either and leaving her best friend for a time. That didn’t quite feel true.
But that’s about it on the negatives. Lady Bird is worth your while if you like coming of age films and certainly if you are raising a teenager watch it! It will be very cathartic for you!
Overall Grade- B
Lady Bird is rated R for some sensuality, drug use but mostly language. It is fine for teenagers.