Saturday, January 20, 2018

Lady Bird Review

I chose to go to a 11:25 showing of Lady Bird this morning.  Yes, this morning.  I was one of three viewers in the audience, all women.  That always makes movie watching a solitary experience, but I can handle 1:30 in the darkness for art. 

I went because of the reviews and because I write relational, realistic fiction and wanted to see how it was done in this film.  It did not disappoint.  The reviews are correct, overall.  Some might call it a "chick flick," but it's far better than that.

While I don't imagine everyone would be interested in this film (no explosions, no intrigue), I recommend it.  I don't like to pay $8.00 for a movie, but I was ok with this one.

It is excellent for the acting, the sense of place, and the respectfulness toward Christian faith (specifically Catholicism).  It is also unflinching in portraying very human characters, even if you don't like them.

And to be honest, as for the character herself, Lady Bird McPherson, I didn't much like her.  At least I wouldn't much like her if I knew her.  She's a brat, and sometimes the other b- word.  She lies and treats her friends badly.  She is hormonally driven in many of her actions.  She's ashamed of her family and their economic condition (her father has lost his job but she insists on going to college in New York).  She's disrespectful to her teachers, steals, and sometimes acts more like a 12-year-old than a high school senior. She wants to be the center of attention. Nothing's good enough for her.  She's not appreciative of her family's sacrifices to let her go to parochial school.  She thinks she has to escape her home of Sacramento, even though in the end she realizes the truth--she can't escape her home, even in New York.  So in the end her growth arc makes you feel like yes, you could eventually like her as a person, in a few years when she stops lying about who she is.

If it sounds like, "Why would I go to a movie about such a character," well, that's the beauty of it.  For all her "sins," she is human.  Who of us has not been all those things, at some point (just not maybe all at once in our senior years!)  I think the success of this portrayal is due as much to the writing as the style of the cinematography (not that I'm an expert, but it's not glossy, just lifelike) and the superb acting.  I have rarely ever seen acting that was without artifice.  Laurie Metcalf, she of the old "Roseanne" series, is so real, so frustrated with her daughter whom she loves but doesn't quite get and maybe doesn't really like as a person, not yet, even though she wants to and will do anything for her.  However, all the actors are very good (except maybe the fart she has her first sex with; I couldn't understand his mumbling and he was one of the characters who took me out of the story).  The chubby friend, the depressed priest, the old nun, the snotty rich girl, and the boy-who-turns-out-as-gay (that was a little but of a cliche) all do well. 

Throughout the film Lady Bird wants to get out of Sacramento, especially the "other side of the tracks" where she says her family lives, yet she doesn't see how it is deeply a part of her.  One of her teachers, an old nun, tells Lady Bird how much her writing shows her love for Sacramento.  How much do we think our home is just a place we occupy and not part of our being?  I grew up in Maryland but have lived here in the Tennessee Valley for 40 some years.  I went home to Maryland twice in 2017 for short visits.  Cords were struck that I forgot were in me.

Finally, the movie is respectful of Catholicism even if the character is not.  In the end, she knows she needs and misses it.  The teachers, priests, and nuns are good people--no crazy people, no fanatics, no pervs, no pedophiles, just adults concerned about the lives and souls of their charges.  The atmosphere of a parochial school is well portrayed.  The football coach priest who has to direct the play is a nice touch, quite funny, as is the elderly nun who tells the dancers to "leave six inches for the Holy Spirit." This is why some have called it a faith-based movie.  I don't know if I would, since it's not exactly PG, but it is a movie that takes Christian spirituality and redemption seriously. 

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