I’ve never thought about what Sacramento was like in 2002. I went once, and felt no need to return. “Lady Bird” made me wonder wistfully about the kind of life I might lead if I were to live in 2002 Sacramento. The film opens with Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) listening to “The Grapes of Wrath” audiobook in the car, sobbing, as they finish their college road trip. This is the part where, if you’re like me, you start laughing because, why on earth would a mother and daughter be crying as an old man reads them “The Grapes of Wrath”? It’s the summer before Lady Bird’s senior year of high school, so college applications loom over her, but her mother declares that she should just go to a city college, prompting Lady Bird to abruptly exit the moving car, to her mother’s horror. The scene introduces the movie as not only a story of Lady Bird’s senior year and everything that comes with it, but also her relationship with her mother (watch it with your mom!)
Despite director Greta Gerwig’s statements that the movie is not autobiographical, she and Lady Bird have much in common, including their involvement in theatre and attendance at an all-girls Catholic high school in Sacramento. At Sacred Heart, Lady Bird dons pink highlights, an arm cast and an oversized uniform polo shirt. She and her only friend, Julie (Beanie Feldstein), participate in the Xavier-Sacred Heart play, through which Lady Bird meets her first boyfriend, Danny (Lucas Hedges).
Both romantic and non-romantic relationships, as they tend to be prevalent in the life of a teenager, are the center of the movie, which also portrays teen girl cattiness as it really occurs. Lady Bird makes a last-ditch effort to be part of the in-crowd by befriending Range Rover-whipping Jenna Walton (Odeya Rush), willingly lying and sacrificing Julie in the process. Lady Bird, who frequents Goodwill because her mom, a psychiatric nurse, and unemployed dad (Tracy Letts) don’t have much money to spare, and likes to say she’s from the “wrong side of the tracks,” convinces Jenna otherwise. Her stint as a social climber is cut short when her new boyfriend, Kyle (Timothée Chalamet), the only person connecting her to the group after Jenna finds out the truth, hurts her feelings and snaps her back to reality. The reunion between Lady Bird and Julie is realistic and heartwarming.
The movie is probably one of the most accurate fictional coming-of-age pieces in existence, especially when it comes to college. Lady Bird only joins theatre at the suggestion of a college counselor who thinks she needs more activities to get into the “small east coast schools” of which she is enamored. Quintessential California teenagers like Lady Bird think they have outgrown their cities and states, and have this idea of going to college in a big city or a quaint town where it snows in the winter. Lady Bird’s mom, however, knows that she has little chance of being admitted to one of those schools and favors closer, more reasonable options for Lady Bird. This ends up being one of the main sources of their constant arguing, a staple among teenage girls and their mothers. Even this part of the movie is comedic because of how downright honest and realistic it is. In one particularly memorable scene, while trying on her prom dress after they had already gotten in an argument inside of the Goodwill store, Lady Bird asks her mother, “Do you like me?” Her mother responds by telling her only that she loves her. It’s obvious that a mother’s love, especially for her teenage daughter with whom she does not always see eye-to-eye, is, for the most part, unconditional, but a mother’s like is just the same as that of any other person. It’s hilarious, because as teens, we have all experienced the feeling of knowing we go to our mothers with too many problems and we see her being fed up with us. It’s so easy to wonder: if your mom were your age, would she want to be your friend?