7/10 Lady Bird was at one point the best reviewed movie in Rotten Tomatoes history, and that’s a badge it can wear without deceit. This is without a doubt one of the most universally likeable, inoffensive movies, one of the safest bets for everyone to have a good time in the theater, ever made.
Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is in her senior year of a Sacramento Catholic high school. McPherson is the kind of above-it-all disconnected from her class that even though she insists on being called “Lady Bird,” she genuinely hadn’t noticed that her school has a drama club. The film follows her through the year, focusing on her ill-advised lovers, her internalized classism and her suffocating relationship with her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf).
Lady Bird expertly captures the bitter nostalgia of a rejected hometown. A lower class non-believer pigeonholed into a ritzy Catholic school, Lady Bird hates everything in her world and spends the movie lashing out at it in a haze of nihilism and senioritis. The film’s mix of gleeful acidity, wistfulness, hatred and yearning is absolutely perfect and unique to anything I’ve seen.
One quibble for me is how it teeters on the brink of apologism for child abuse. Lady Bird’s mother is only almost abusive and the movie only almost implies that it’s OK because she actually really loves her, but it’s enough to make me uncomfortable. But that’s me, when I see minors in predicaments, my sight goes red and I’m no longer responsible for myself. Like The Glass Castle earlier this year, which was much more flagrant, Lady Bird is the autobiography of a key creative — in this case writer/director Greta Gerwig — which almost certainly leads it to be more forgiving of the characters involved.
I don’t like coming of age stories. They’re tacky and feel good and way, way too easy. Everybody hated high school, you’re not special. I tend to meet movies that assert their character’s high school experience was somehow exceptional with the same regard I meet people who think that — one, you’re wrong, and two, you probably spend way too much energy trying to fit the world into that uniquely dumb social political landscape that everyone else has grown out of. There will always be classics like The Breakfast Club and Mean Girls that resonate through the generations, and Lady Bird may well join them, but I’d generally rather not be transported back into that immature mess, no matter how evocatively.
Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.