California as you have never seen it

ladybird Lady Bird poster

The American stock market closed for four days after the 9/11 attacks. The economic depression, which started in March 2001, was aggravated in the United States. Then came Bush's “war on terror”. The huge government spending on defence led to the debt crisis. Unemployment climbed its journey to the peak until June 2003.

Greta Gerwig sets her directorial debut Lady Bird in the backdrop of this unusual time when the middle and lower class Americans suffered, but government was busy spending on a war in a distant land. Her Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is a 17-year-old girl, studying in a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California. She coined herself that name and insists that everybody calls her so. She hates Sacramento. She doesn't want to go to any college in California, but a “city with culture”.

And, there is the continuous fight between her and her mom—issues ranging from playing an audio cassette to the college she would study. Her father is an understanding person. But he lost his job in recession. Now, the mother is the sole breadwinner and scrimping each and every penny. She tells Lady Bird that their family would not be able to afford even her in-state college fees. But Lady Bird is determined and hopes to get scholarships. She finally succeeds in getting admission at an Ivy League college. But realisation dawns late that she loves her terribly boring Sacramento and annoying mother.

The movie is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama from Greta Gerwig. It is a ready mix of the usual cliches of the genre—romance, break ups, 'friendivorces', experimentation. But, even then, the performance by Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird, supported by a bunch of talented actors like Laurie Metcalf (Mrs McPherson), Beanie Feldstein (as Julie, best friend of Lady Bird), and Lucas Hedges (as Danny O'Neill, first boyfriend of Ladybird), gives a fresh feeling and delivers some new insights on adolescence. The onscreen chemistry between Ronan and Metcalf to deliver realism at its best could be seen in many scenes.

Moreover, the worries of money management in a middle class American family during the early 2000s is clearly depicted in the movie. The emotionless face the protagonist delivers on watching the bombings in TV in those distant American invasion front, clearly tell how an ordinary American perceived the Bush years of war-mongering.

The most powerful element of the movie is its screenplay which keep us engaged from the first scene to the end. The dialogues are simple and genuine. The cinematography by Sam Levy takes special care that the viewers also have a connect with the Sacramento.

Gerwig is only the fifth woman to have been nominated in the Best Director category of Academy Awards. Among the other four, Kathryn Bigelow who directed the war thriller The Hurt Locker is the only one to have bagged the Oscar. Lady Bird carries a special beauty as a film about women by a woman. And it felt like a chapter from her memory book. The film starts with an opening note from writer Joan Didion which says, “Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never seen Sacramento.” That's what Gerwig wanted to convey in the film, and she has succeeded in it.