Love Letter to Sacramento
Set in the familiar city of Sacramento, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is astonishingly tender, unapologetically honest and hits almost too close to home. Gerwig’s writing is raw, with a comedic undertone that exhibits realness and authenticity, while successfully keeping you wrapped up in its story throughout the entire 94 minutes of the film. Additionally, as a coming-of-age story, “Lady Bird” accurately portrays what it truly feels like to be 18 — a trait many of today’s young adult films seem to be lacking.
Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (played by Saoirse Ronan) feels trapped. Living on “the wrong side of the tracks,” Lady Bird itches to escape the dismal, boring town of Sacramento, which she refers to as “the Midwest of California.” Lady Bird wants culture, and she wants to be surrounded by an environment that accurately reflects her own lively boldness. She doesn’t have many friends, save the scene-stealing Julie (played by Beanie Feldstein), and her social skills are eccentric but wholly endearing. She continuously fights with her mother, who, like her, is fiercely passionate in all that she does. This brings up one of the centermost focal points of the film — the strained yet loving mother-daughter relationship between Lady Bird and her mother (played by Laurie Metcalf).
Ronan, playing a somewhat autobiographical version of Gerwig herself, brilliantly leads the film as she portrays its title character. She makes Lady Bird’s somewhat unreasonable antics fiercely believable, with an intensity and level of earnest naivete that can only exist in a real teenager.
Throughout the film, we follow Lady Bird through her senior year of high school. Gerwig expertly transitions from scene to scene and month to month as the story goes on, showing off her true strengths not only as a writer, but also as a director. From experiencing her first ever heartbreak to applying to her dream universities, Lady Bird lives through the anxiety-ridden transition period from teenhood to the adult world that resonates deeply with college students everywhere. When the odds are inherently stacked against you, how does one coincide dreams with reality? This is a question that Lady Bird constantly struggles with, as she yearns to go to New York, despite her mother’s wishes and her family’s struggling financial situation.
As an audience member, it’s easy to feel frustrated with Lady Bird, not because we dislike her character, but because her actions reflect upon our own lesser qualities. She’s selfish, naive, full of angst and self-centered at times. She screams at her mother, disregards her parents’ hard work, mistreats her best friend and changes herself for a brief time to impress a boy that she likes. And still, we root for Lady Bird, not in spite of her flaws but because she is genuinely kind and loving. She reminds us of ourselves.
For UC Davis students in particular, “Lady Bird” speaks volumes. Sweeping shots of Sacramento highways, the Tower Bridge and rural skylines evoke some sense of pride for the surrounding area of our favorite college town. While Lady Bird resents the fact that she was accepted into UC Davis — for its close proximity to her home and its fame as an agricultural school — she still deeply appreciates her hometown, although she may not see it quite yet herself.
So do yourself a favor and go see “Lady Bird.” See it with your mom. Remind her that you love her and that you do miss home more than you care to let on. See it for the hilarious references to our beloved UC Davis. Remember the feelings that you felt when you were in Lady Bird’s exact place as a high school senior. Immerse yourself in all that Gerwig has to offer to the audiences of “Lady Bird.” Remind yourself that you are young, naive and probably a bit selfish, but that sometimes, that’s okay.
Written by: Sydney Odman — firstname.lastname@example.org