If you haven’t heard of Lady Bird, you’re possibly working too hard, living under a rock or clueless. So…maybe you need to get a life. It’s a 2017 film up for five Oscars, all big ones, like Best Picture, Screenplay, Director, Actress and Supporting Actress. Yes, it’s that good. But just in case you have been trapped under something heavy for the past six months, I’ll give you a quick synopsis. Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is a quirky 17 year old Senior at a Catholic High School in Sacramento, CA. She’s a bit of an outsider who wants nothing more than to get out of dodge via a college far off on the East Coast. Laurie Metcalf plays her financially stressed, critical Mom, who has a hard shell outside and soft chewy center that unfortunately Lady Bird doesn’t get to see all that often. It’s a movie about the complexities that define the mother-daughter relationship.
The first time I saw the movie, I was with my mother. It was her idea. She knows every movie, the day it’s coming out, and which ones are the good ones. So naturally I trusted her. I love my mom. She is seventy-seven, has an incredibly active social life and an excellent sense of humor. We have a lot in common, especially eating good food and drinking good wine. She’s healthy and fully independent, as well as culturally, socially, and politically aware. She is an avid reader. Really, a dream as an elderly parent. And yet, we don’t always get along so well. Sometimes, for no reason at all, I snap at her. I also have little patience when she, God forbid, “gets it wrong sometimes” or asks me to repeat myself. I get exasperated, in fact, fairly easily. She herself, is often impatient with me and seems to beckon negative responses. In other words, when I’m with her, I’m about 14.
Mom and I both loved the movie. I don’t remember either of us having too much to say, other than we cried and we loved it. But watching, it was pretty clear to me anyway, that I was Lady Bird and she was Lady Bird’s mother and so the movie was obviously written about us. For example, there’s a scene where the two of them go shopping at a thrift store. LB’s Mom is clearly in a bitchy mood. When she spots a woman she knows, she smiles and laughs and exchanges warm pleasantries. She quickly turns back to Lady Bird and continues to criticize the dresses her daughter has picked out. That’s my mother! At one moment, she’s privately in the throws and triggers and sometimes hell of our relationship, and in the next, she’s publicly Mother Teresa.
Cut to three months later. I take my daughter to see Lady Bird. Emma is an eighteen year old College Freshman living in Boston. She’s sensitive, funny, politically aware and active. (Like Lady Bird!) She’s smart, beautiful, kind and creative. (Like Lady Bird!) She’s a dream daughter on paper, right? And yet…We don’t always get along so well. I know! You’re sensing a pattern here, aren’t you? Also like LB, Emma couldn’t wait to get out of her hometown and go away to school. With Emma, I can sometimes be critical, maybe a tad pushy, and perhaps some of my stresses and frustrations are taken out, you know, possibly at times, on her. I am easily a toned down version of Laurie Metcalf’s character. The movie portrays our tricky, sticky relationship pretty damn well. Which is why I bawled during a scene in which Lady Bird comes home in the very best of moods, on cloud nine, and Mom, not even remotely aware of this, enters her bedroom and immediately starts to criticize how messy she is, making her feel like shit in one fell swoop. Ugh! *Note to my son: Yes, I know I probably have done this to you as well.
But, then, the airport scene. Oh, the airport scene. I had to lean forward, grab the seat in front of me and catch my breath from sobbing. Behind to my left, I could hear Emma doing the same. I sat back, and she leaned into me and I put my arm around her. We watched the rest of the movie while I held her, and we continued to quietly cry. Afterward as we processed, she better understood that Lady Bird’s mother wasn’t able to handle the flooding of emotions she felt around the love she had for her daughter. At times, I feel the same way. And I let my daughter know that.
Lady Bird is a beautiful, funny, sad movie that shows how messy mother-daughter relationships can be. The acting, writing and directing are amazing. Watch it, with tissues nearby. Enough said.