By Jen Sidorova, January 12 2018 —
With a 99-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes from over 200 reviews, Lady Bird — the debut film of director Greta Gerwig — is one of the best-reviewed movie in the website’s history. Early in the film, it’s clear why Lady Bird’s reception is so overwhelmingly positive.
Lady Bird’s heroine is Christine, who prefers to go by “Lady Bird” — her given name, since she “gave it to herself.” Portrayed by Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird navigates life in sleepy Sacramento, California in a lower-middle-class family with her unemployed father, underemployed brother, overbearing mother and lone best friend. Naturally, she has a lot of ambitions that no one understands.
American culture has an air of ‘true grit,’ spawned by a John Wayne cowboy movie of the same name. A gritty person is determined and goal-oriented, a person who pursues their own way of life without giving in to their competitors and who has no desire to live in the past. As a young woman who possesses these qualities, Lady Bird persistently follows her ambitions — of going to a liberal arts school in New York or of losing her virginity — despite having trouble achieving what she wants. Christine is constantly disappointed in love and friendship, learning valuable life lessons. Nevertheless, she always follows her own path.
Hollywood first introduced us to this ‘gritty’ and personal heroine with Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, who fearlessly stuck to her goals. Now, 70 years later, we see the modern version of this character in Lady Bird, whose desire to achieve what she wants can indeed make miracles.
Lady Bird is about staying true to your inner self throughout those challenges, which is highlighted through the relationship with her mother. Tired and stressed out, Christine’s mom is a poor role model for her daughter, but she tries her best to control her child’s temperament. Their relationship is the film’s central source of conflict, and provides commentary on the limits of maternal love.
It’s hard to say that Lady Bird is a success story. Rather, this film portrays the harsher realities of life. Lady Bird didn’t grow up in perfect conditions. Moreover, the circumstances of her life and her relationships with people are often frustrating. Lady Bird deals with problems with a lot of dignity — she flops on her decisions, apologizes and leaves relationships, but always acts with self-admiration and self-respect. She goes through sad circumstances but she never betrays herself. Every time something bad happens, Christine immediately stands up for herself and moves on to fulfil what she wants.
Lady Bird is not a generic story about teenagers. This is a movie about real life. And although it comes with problems and challenges that we cannot control, we can tackle those problems with self-assured grit.