what’s lady bird about

That Greta Gerwig is a brilliant writer has been clear since the very start of her movie career, because the films in which she first starred, such as “Hannah Takes the Stairs” and “Yeast,” were already her feats of writing. Her dialogue in those films was mostly improvised, but it’s vastly superior to the texts of many acclaimed screenwriters. Other films that she has written, “Frances Ha” and “Mistress America,” are as readable as they are watchable. And her new film, “Lady Bird”—the first feature that she has directed alone, the first to be fully scripted, the first to be made on a substantial budget with a large and professional cast and crew—is full of exquisite dialogue. The experience of watching it for review is the experience of scribbling in the dark as fast as humanly possible, not only to be able to quote it and describe it but, above all, to be able to savor it.

In “Lady Bird,” Gerwig tells a coming-of-age story for a young woman in Sacramento, set between the fall of 2002 and the fall of 2003, that’s loosely autobiographical, cognate with very general aspects of her life. Gerwig, like the film’s protagonist, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (played by Saoirse Ronan), grew up in Sacramento, attended a Catholic high school, and went to New York for college. But what’s most significantly personal about “Lady Bird” isn’t the setup but the details—the emotional world of its characters, the touches of whimsy and grace with which she creates it.

The very title is a story in itself—when Christine is asked for her given name, she says “Lady Bird” and explains, “It was given by myself to myself.” Her fierce struggle to be called by this name is the struggle over what she got from, or is given by, her parents. Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf) is a nurse who puts in long hours at work and seems to do the bulk of the housework; she’s also extraordinarily frank about the difficulties that she and her family endure, and her frankness puts her into bitter conflict with her daughter. Lady Bird wants, above all, to leave Sacramento, to go to college on the East Coast—if not in New York, then “in Connecticut or New Hampshire, where writers live in the woods.” Marion insists that the family can hardly afford for her to attend a state school, so Lady Bird asks her easygoing and good-humored father, Larry (Tracy Letts), to complete a financial-aid application for her without telling Marion. He does so—but when the secret gets out, it drives a seemingly irreparable wedge between Lady Bird and her mother.

“Lady Bird” takes its protagonist through adolescent solipsism to recognition and gratitude, through the hazards of friendship complicated by matters of self- and self-imagination, through openhearted but uncertain fumblings of romance, through the unresolved and ever-mounting tensions of family life and the acknowledgment of its hard material practicalities, to a radiant reconciliation with her family, her home town, and herself. Lady Bird’s fine-grained perceptions come with a delicate meter of social distinctions and, with it, the desire for the pleasures, the sense of freedom, that money can buy—money that her parents don’t have. All the relationships in the film are tempered and conditioned by money. There’s Lady Bird’s friendship with Julie (Beanie Feldstein), who lives in a modest apartment with her single mother, and her sweet romance with Danny (Lucas Hedges), whose grandmother lives in her “dream house,” and who invites her to his family’s Thanksgiving feast. There’s Lady Bird’s next romance, with the rocker Kyle (Timothée Chalamet), who claims to “hate money” but lives a life of comfort on his family’s dime while attending a costly private school. And there’s Lady Bird’s effort to curry friendship with the school’s wealthy queen bee, Jenna (Odeya Rush), by pretending to be a rich kid herself, tossing out seemingly oblivious remarks with a self-conscious self-control.

Gerwig doesn’t romanticize the McPhersons’ genteel frustrations; she shows that they wear on Lady Bird as well. When Marion chastises Lady Bird for being demanding after Larry loses his job, Lady Bird responds with a smart but immature tantrum, insisting that Marion give her “a number”—tell her how much it costs to raise her: “I’m gonna get older and make a lot of money and write you a check and never speak to you again.” (Marion’s retort is both admirably calm and decisively cutting: “I doubt you’ll get that good of a job.”) Later, speaking of Larry’s depression (and trying to uncouple it from his job insecurity), Marion tells Lady Bird, “Money isn’t life’s report card. Being successful doesn’t mean that you’re happy.” Lady Bird responds, “But he’s not happy.” It’s a brilliant exchange: just as money doesn’t guarantee happiness, it’s no bar to it, either. On the contrary, Lady Bird has a vision of herself—of style and of freedom of action—that will take money to foster and sustain. In her sour retorts, there’s a ring of truth.

The movie is filled with insights about much more than money—for instance, in one series of riffs played mainly for comedy but shadowed with terror, a male math teacher, young and perky, flirts with Julie, never stepping openly out of bounds but clearly grooming a curiosity, even a desire, that hints at grave possibilities. The character of Lady Bird is impulsive, ardent, spontaneous. She disrupts and lampoons a school assembly about abortion; she plays a reckless practical joke on the school’s principal, a nun (Lois Smith); she declares with a curtly decisive frankness when she doesn’t want sex and when she does.

Nonetheless, Lady Bird’s volatile temperament comes through more in the writing and the drama than in the performance; Ronan doesn’t quite display the text’s sudden and mercurial energy. Metcalf, playing a character of taut and measured precision, steals the film with her precise inflections and focussed glances. In general, Gerwig favors precision in “Lady Bird.” If the films in which she came up flaunt ambiguity and the impenetrable, opaque idiosyncrasies of people (a reason why John Cassavetes is a hero to this generation of filmmakers), here she focusses her emotions within tight limits, the better for them to ring out and harmonize with a piercing, poignant clarity.

This air of restraint is conspicuous throughout the film, and the price of that clarity is freedom—Gerwig’s own as well as that of the actors. “Lady Bird,” daring, distinctive, and personal in text and theme, is recognizably conventional in texture and style. The bulk of the film is, in effect, pictures of actors acting—acting with skill and care, imagination and vigor, but with no more originality of tone or temperament than Gerwig brings to the direction of the film—at least, to most of the direction of the film. Her attention to the nuanced glances of characters adds extra psychological and comedic dimensions to the dialogue and the action. But for a movie that’s as deeply devoted as “Lady Bird” is to a sense of place, to a tribute to that place, it seems to inhabit that place so thinly, offering snippets of prominent sites without much proximity to them. The movie is nearly devoid of vistas, lacking moments between scenes when nothing special but vision and motion are happening, lacking even the walking and talking in places that the characters frequent. (The tendency is clear from the start, when a scene of Lady Bird and Julie visiting their dream houses seems nearly detached from the streets around them.) It’s also devoid of narrative vistas—its scenes are cut tightly to fit and leave the characters, and the actors, little in the way of comings and goings, of space to breathe, to look, to be. (As I watched the film, I yearned to see what went on between the characters just after each scene, between each transition.)

Gerwig’s restrained direction emerges from the very ideas in the film. The aesthetic of “Lady Bird,” its emotional and dramatic legibility, is a realism of morality, an utterly uncynical but clear-eyed sense of the responsibilities that come with the kind of money that it takes to make such a film, the kind of stylistic and tonal expectations that a movie of this sort creates and should fulfill in order for it to take its place in the field—and for Gerwig to take her apt place there along with it. There’s nobody in the film who performs with the freedom or the originality that Gerwig herself offers as an actor—in part, because Gerwig doesn’t give her actors an open narrative framework or production environment akin to the ones that have given rise to her own most original performances (including “Nights and Weekends,” from 2008, which she co-directed). “Lady Bird” isn’t a film that is stuck in conventions; it’s one that borrows them, but from within, not quoting them but treating them, too, with a sort of practical respect for a mature art that’s akin to the very reconciliations that are built into the story itself.

Nonetheless, two scenes, occurring late in “Lady Bird,” are among the most thrillingly directed of recent moments, and suggest with a clarion intensity that her directorial imagination reaches beyond the film’s primary mode of practical drama. To avoid spoilers, let’s just say that one is a scene of Marion driving by herself, and the other is a scene featuring flashbacks from Lady Bird’s point of view. These scenes, composed of disparate elements, rich in subjectivity, conjuring drama and emotion with simple but bold devices of editing, rise very high as cinematic music. These brief moments are the movie’s greatest exhilarations; even more than the copious and generously imagined drama that gives rise to them, they suggest the wider and freer inspirations of the directorial career that, if there’s any justice in the industry, Gerwig is launched on.

Greta Gerwig has been an accomplished writer since the beginning of her film career. Her writing credits include the films “Yeast” and “Hannah Takes the Stairs,” which she starred in. Although the majority of her dialogue in those movies was improvised, it is still far better than the scripts of many well-known screenwriters. Her other screenplays, “Frances Ha” and “Mistress America,” are equally watchable and readable. And “Lady Bird,” her latest film, which she directed herself for the first time, is packed with brilliant dialogue. It’s also the first fully scripted picture she’s directed, and it was produced on a big budget with a sizable and skilled cast and crew. Watching it for review is like writing in the dark as quickly as you can to not only be able to quote and describe it but, most importantly, to be able to enjoy it.

However, two scenes that take place toward the end of “Lady Bird” are among the most intensely directed scenes in recent memory, and they strongly imply that the director’s imagination extends beyond the film’s main mode of realistic drama. Let’s just say that one is a scene in which Marion drives alone and the other is a scene in which Lady Bird is experiencing flashbacks in order to prevent spoilers. These moments stand out greatly as cinematic music because they are made up of a variety of elements, are rich in subjectivity, and use straightforward yet daring editing techniques to evoke drama and emotion. The movie’s most thrilling sequences are these few minutes; they hint at the broader and more liberated inspirations of the directing career that, if there’s any justice in the industry, Gerwig is launched on, even more so than the copious and generously imagined drama that gives rise to them.

Throughout the entire movie, there is a noticeable sense of restraint, and freedom—both Gerwig’s and the actors’—is the price of that clarity. “Lady Bird” has a bold, unique, and intimate text and theme, but her texture and style are distinctly conventional. The majority of the movie is essentially just images of actors performing; they do it with care and skill, vigor and imagination, but they don’t bring any more uniqueness to the tone or temperament of the picture than Gerwig does to the majority of its direction. Her focus on the subtle looks that characters exchange gives the dialogue and action additional psychological and comedic depth. However, “Lady Bird,” a film that pays such a great deal of attention to a particular location and sense of place, seems to occupy it very sparingly, presenting glimpses of notable locations that are not particularly close to it. The film is almost entirely devoid of landscapes, has few intermissions where anything noteworthy is happening other than vision and motion, and lacks even the characters’ regular dialogue and strolling in certain locations. (The tendency is evident right away when Lady Bird and Julie are shown touring their ideal homes; they appear almost cut off from the surrounding streets.) It also lacks narrative vistas because the scenes are trimmed closely to fit the characters and actors, giving them little opportunity to move around, breathe, or simply be. (As I watched the movie, I longed to see the interactions between the characters right before and after each scene change.) ).

Nevertheless, Ronan’s performance falls short of capturing the text’s abrupt and mercurial energy; Lady Bird’s volatile temperament is more evident in the writing and drama. Metcalf, who plays a character with taut, measured precision, steals the movie with her focused glances and precise inflections. In general, Gerwig favors precision in “Lady Bird. If the movies she appeared in showcased ambiguity and the unfathomable, opaque quirks of people (which is why John Cassavetes is revered by this generation of filmmakers), in this instance, she keeps her emotions in check so that they can harmonize with a sharp, poignant clarity.

The title itself tells a tale in and of itself. When asked her given name, Christine responds, “Lady Bird,” adding, “It was given by myself to myself.” Her intense battle to go by this name is a battle over what her parents gave her or what she received from them. Laurie Metcalf plays Marion McPherson, a nurse who works long hours and appears to handle most of the housework. She is also very honest about the struggles she and her family face, which causes her to have a tense relationship with her daughter. Above all, Lady Bird wants to move out of Sacramento and attend college on the East Coast, preferably in Connecticut or New Hampshire, where authors reside in the woods, if not in New York. Marion claims that the family cannot afford for her to attend a public school, so Lady Bird begs her laid-back and humorous father, Larry (Tracy Letts), to submit an application for financial assistance on her behalf without disclosing the information to Marion. He does so, but when the secret is revealed, it seems to permanently damage the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother.

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The movie’s worldwide distribution rights were purchased by A24 in July 2017. [29] On September 1, 2017, the movie made its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival. It then screened on September 8, 2017, at the Toronto International Film Festival, and on October 8, 2017, at the New York Film Festival. [32] Focus Features acquired international distribution rights to the film. [33] On November 3, 2017, it was theatrically released in the US. [34] On February 16, 2018, it was released in the UK. On February 23, 2018, it was released in Ireland. [35].

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Gerwig spent years writing the screenplay for “Lady Bird”. It was working title Mothers and Daughters and was over 350 pages long at one point. [9] In 2015, IAC Films, which co-produced the movie with Scott Rudin Productions, provided funding to Gerwig and her group. [10] Gerwigs manager, Evelyn ONeill, also served as a producer. [10].

FAQ

What is the message of Lady Bird?

Overall, Ladybird is a powerful coming-of-age story that explores the complexities of growing up and finding one’s place in the world. Through Lady Bird’s journey, the film portrays the universal struggle of adolescence and the importance of self-discovery in the process of becoming an adult.

What is Lady Bird supposed to be about?

Plot. In fall 2002, Christine McPherson, who has nicknamed herself “Lady Bird”, is a senior at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic High School in Sacramento, California. Despite her family’s financial struggles, she longs to attend a prestigious college in “a city with culture” somewhere on the East Coast.

What is the meaning of the story Lady Bird?

Ultimately, it is a story about humanity; the inevitability of growing up and the tapestry of complications that come with it. What is so unique about Ladybird, however, is that its director, Greta Gerwig, allows for things to be talked about which are usually muted.

Why did Christine call herself Lady Bird?

-DID YOU KNOW that Christine’s self-given nickname – “Lady Bird” – wasn’t inspired by Lady Bird Johnson? Rather, Gerwig told NPR’s Terry Gross that it was likely influenced by the words to a Mother Goose nursery rhyme: “Ladybird, ladybird/Fly away home/Your house is on fire/And your children all gone.”