Although I’ve never been to Sacramento, and certainly wasn’t there in 2002, the movie Lady Bird felt very realistic to me. Realistic and convincing. Kudos to director Greta Gerwig! As A.O. Scott in the New York Times put it, “Every line sounds like something a person might actually say, which means that the movie is also exceptionally well acted.”
If you’re not a fan of coming-of-age films, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. But for the rest of us this is a very enjoyable movie. And there’s an unexpected connection to the far weightier coming-of-age novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which I mentioned briefly in yesterday’s post in this blog: both works present a 20-something Irish perspective on Catholic high school education. Come to think of it, the comparison between the book and the unrelated movie would make a great topic for a college essay in quite a few different courses.
In Joyce’s case, of course, we literally mean Irish; in the movie the characters are Irish-American, although the lead actress is Saoirse Ronan, who is actually Irish. The (probably) true story is Saoirse had to teach supporting actress Beanie Feldstein about the Catholic prayers, and Beanie in turn had to teach Saoirse about the Pledge of Allegiance.
Saoirse plays lead character Christine, who renames herself Lady Bird for reasons that are not quite clear; Beanie plays her best friend Julie. Most of the movie revolves around the teen dramas of their relationship and about Lady Bird’s relationships with her parents, both of which are typical topics in coming-of-age stories and are effectively presented here. The Catholic school issues are also well-done, TTBOMK. Interestingly, although the movie always threatens to veer into stereotypes, it always manages to stay just this side of them; I especially liked the portrayal of the school principal (a nun), whose role defies the viewer’s likely expectations.