The Film That Is Not About What It Says But How It Says It
The Oscar-nominated film Lady Bird, directed by Greta Gerwig, is a unique coming-of-age comedy-drama that follows the senior year of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (played by Saoirse Ronan), as she deals with the themes that surround teenage angst, including family, boys, friends and the common fear of what the future holds after high school. The film, however, is not unique in what it says. There is nothing within the concept of the story that is original or has not been explored before and this is evident through the derivative plot lines and stereotypical characters that are introduced: The good looking “hella tight” boy at school who ends up mistreating her, the popular girls who she leaves her best friend for then realises she was wrong, the anxiety over what university will accept her and the turbulent relationship between her and her mother. These are just a few of the clichés that are explored within the film.
Despite Lady Bird’s lack of originality, the film is not banal and this is due to the witty dialogue, the nuanced acting and the unique way in which it is shot and directed. Set in Sacramento, California in 2002, Greta Gerwig explores the very general aspects of teenage life, however, it is her close attention to detail that creates a warmth to the overall atmosphere, subsequently making the film an enjoyable experience to watch. Numerous scenes in the film are composed of disparate elements and are rich in subjectivity, conjuring heightened emotion and drama with simple but bold editing devices, such as the scene where Marion (played by Laurie Metcalf) is driving in the car by herself towards the end of the film.
It is the basic but artful scenes like this that make the film a true pleasure to watch. In saying this, when reflecting on Lady Bird as a whole, there seems to be something in the film that is missing and it is hard to put one’s finger on. There are three types of audience responses: Those who adore every aspect of the film, those who were disappointed and could not understand why it had received so much acclaim, and those who acquired mixed feelings and could not explain why. The latter was certainly my experience of viewing the film and this might just be one of the reasons: the film did not make it easy to find an emotional connection to the character of “Lady Bird”. There are countless highly acclaimed films where the protagonist is hard to relate to and is difficult to sympathise with. Not all films need to have an admirable and lovable lead, yet, in the case of Lady Bird’s storyline, it is essential for the audience to connect and sympathise with Ronan’s character. There are certainly people who will disagree with this opinion. The film has many instances where audiences, especially teenagers, can relate to her character and the events that unfold. Conversely, this relationship with the film is mainly due to the common circumstances that she finds herself in rather than a deep connection to the character’s persona. Despite this inexplicable hole within the film and the imitative concept, Lady Bird is entertaining, relatable and encompasses the reality of growing up superbly.