There is (and always has been) ONE RULE to Required Viewing. One of us is meant to have seen the film in question, and the other isn’t. Well, neither of us had seen Lady Bird before the screening we attended. But, if we’re going to bend the rules, we’re going to bend them for Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut. Listen, when studio reps who have been taking your post-screening comments for half-a-decade tell you “you’re going to looooooooove this movie,” you can feel pretty confident declaring said film “Required Viewing” sight unseen.
B: Obviously, my dear friends from Allied did not lie. I looooooooooved this movie. I laughed. I cried. I walked out and declared Saoirse Ronan coming of age to be my ideal film genre. But, as we’ve said, all of that was known. Annemarie, before we get into the details, tell the people your initial thoughts. And maybe clue them in to what Lady Bird is all about.
A: Brooke, let’s deal with the film’s setting of 2002 first.
I left for college 1,000 miles from my hometown of Arvada, CO just six weeks before 9/11. I too wanted to get as far as I could from my boring suburban life. I watched and wondered in horror as the events of That Day changed everything. But it came almost precisely at a time when I had just dramatically uprooted my life, so I have a theory that I was perhaps less affected by it than I perhaps would have been. As much as it captured my attention, sympathy and fear, I remember more being focused on new classes, new dorm, new roommate, new boys, new city, new friends, etc. etc. There’s a cheesy symmetry between the loss of innocence we experienced as a nation just as I was also making the biggest grown-up move a kid can make, but I’m going to draw the line anyway. Besides, I feel strongly Lady Bird herself would approve of me making this about me.
Like most people who’ve left home, I still vividly recall a lot of details from that wonderful awful time. To say that Lady Bird captured that is to understate the power the film has, but it must be said. Also, presuming that the film’s major strokes are taken from writer/director Greta Gerwig’s life, let’s just say that both her experience and especially the timing of leaving home in the early aughts resonated personally for me.
Make it about you, please, Brooke. What are your memories of the time you left home, and also, talk to me about 9/11. What impact did it make on you personally?
B: I will first note that the manner in which we establish this action is taking place in 2002 provided one of my favorite lines in the movie. Aghast at her mother’s suggestion that she is already “living through something,” Lady Bird replies, “The only thing interesting about 2002 is that it’s a palindrome.” Sick burn, Lady Bird.
Anyway … I’m a bit younger than you and Lady Bird, but the period of this film still spoke precisely to my own coming of age. The events of the picture cover the time when I would have been in eighth grade and starting out as a freshman in high school. The music, the styles, they were all of my adolescence, and as I’m sure we’ll discuss at length later, the emotions and the landmark moments are universal.
Not unlike our gal Lady Bird I cherished dreams of going to New York — where better to learn to write than the hallowed halls of Columbia? But, unlike Lady Bird, I didn’t imagine a future where I figured out a way to make the extraordinary costs work out. And so, being the logical child I was, I skipped the application, saved the $50 fee and kept the dream that I could have gotten in alive. I rationalized that it would be great fodder for some quarter-life crisis where I brooded about what I could have done or been.
But, I digress. My departure from home was different to yours in that I went to Boulder, Colorado, a short jaunt from my suburban home in Littleton. I didn’t have the desire for distance so much as I longed for a place of learning. A lifelong nerd, I was convinced that college might be the time for my intellectualism to make me a cool kid. It didn’t. Boulder was, and is, something of a party school, but there was a small, ferocious core of bookish types to be found if one looked about. In any case, I relished the beautiful campus and the brilliant professors and the generally crunchy vibe of Boulder. It was a world all its own.
I remember watching my small, but fierce, core of childhood friends leaving for out-of-state schools one by one, and being persistently aware of the bittersweet emotions that permeated the whole time. I remember turning up and loving the hours of class, breaks on the sprawling lawns reading under trees and nights that seemed the antithesis of what everyone around me was doing. And I remember those final days of high school with even sharper clarity. Everything felt simultaneously massive and inconsequential. Conventional wisdom holds that high school is when people find who they are. But the truth is that college has a way of either crystalizing or dismantling that vision. For me, it was the former, but it was still heady as hell.
Right, on to the question of 9/11. This idea of loss of innocence as a nation and as individuals is actually one that was explored a lot during my college education. I had a film professor who held that 9/11 was to our generation what the Kennedy Assination was to those who came before us. He said that such tragedies always cement a snapshot of a moment. We all know where we were and what we were doing on 9/11, and for many millennials, it was an event that stripped us of the innocence that is so often at the crux of coming of age films. Curiously, I don’t pinpoint that moment in my own life to 9/11. I was horrified, of course. And if anything, it brought me to a greater global awareness, but it didn’t shatter my vision of the world the way the Columbine shooting did two years earlier. Of course, it was only later that I realized how both of those events colored me as an individual and shaped the landscape of my youth.
And I think that Lady Bird works so spectacularly thanks to distance too. It’s made 15 years after the events we’re shown, but Greta Gerwig doesn’t editorialize or judge. She tells the story with empathy and earnestness, and that’s what gives it the power to transport us right back to that time. You know what I mean? Tell me you do. Then talk to me about Lady Bird’s romantical escapades.
A: You’re right, this can be considered a period piece even though it doesn’t take place that long ago. I still can’t fathom that 2001 was really 16 years ago and not 6. Is that because we’re in a new millennium and the years are all funky? Or did our parents’ generation struggle with the concept that their childhood keeps drifting further away and yes, high school was in fact closer to 20 years in the rear view window?
Ok, onto boys. Lady Bird’s first boyfriend (we can assume he’s her first boyfriend), is the cute boy in the drama club, and I have to give her props for moving in, making a move and getting smoochies. Of course, there’s a twist that I don’t really want to reveal (#spoileralert) but I do want to say that it was the moment in the film where the tears fell. Heartfelt moments like that are what make films memorable, and I was completely there for it.
Lady Bird’s second boyfriend was the complete opposite of Boy 1. The bad boy who is clearly a rebound of sorts, but seems about right for an 18-year-old. By the by, I just realized that Lady Bird’s first two boyfriends mirror almost exactly the first two boyfriends of one Rory Gilmore, right down to the fact that Lady Bird’s rebel boyfriend also likes to read “deep” books like Jess.
While Lady Bird has more significant boy experience than I did at that age, it’s as awkward as one might expect and sort of makes me glad I was a late bloomer. What are your thoughts on Lady Bird’s boys, and also, let’s talk about her bedroom. It seemed to me to be such a reflection of her journey that we simply must discuss.
B: First, great recapping on the boy sitch. I am interested to learn that the big reveal was the moment that prompted tears for you. I absolutely wept in this movie, but it was more the mother-daughter stuff that got me. It was just so accurate, but we’ll get there.
You’re spot on with the Dean/Jess analogy, and as was true in Gilmore Girls, young Brooke would have absolutely pined for the bad boy with the dangerous ideas about the world. Of course, now we have the wisdom to see through that, but at the time, it would have done me in. But I must say, narratively, I think Boy 1 is the real treasure. That story is sweet and timeless and resolves in a really lovely way. Good on ya, Greta.
Okay, now to Lady Bird’s bedroom. I agree in that I very much had the sense it was a part of her journey, but I have to confess that I’ve lost most of the details (the Nirvana poster I remember and respect), as I’ve been on other things. I will say that in Lady Bird’s home and room I was often under the impression that we were getting nods to Pretty In Pink. You’ve seen that now, so discuss. And then give me bedroom observations. And then let’s talk about moms and daughters.
A: I too don’t remember the specifics, but I do recall her habit of writing her crush’s name under her window, and the vast quantity of stuff on the walls. I wallpapered my bedroom with so many band posters and chili pepper lights and photos. You name it, I probably had it on my walls the last two years of high school. There was such a sadness and joy when she took that white paint and obscured all of her personality in the room toward the end. Again, it’s that moment of growing up, leaving your childhood behind. And her house, on the wrong side of the tracks — literally. I chuckled about that, but I too can recall wanting my own house to be in one of the new developments instead of the (at the time) 20-year-old house I grew up in. I never lied about my house’s location, but I can understand why she’s make up a story like that to get in with the in-crowd.
The contentious, loving, and contradictory relationship between a teenage daughter and her mother is the central emotional point of this film. Lady Bird and her mom get along as well as to be expected, which is to say that while they love each other, they don’t like each other very much. Lady Bird is desperate to leave home, and her mom is desperate to keep her only daughter close to home. They nitpick at each other constantly, which I completely get, but I never rolled out of a moving car to end a conversation with my mom, or anyone else for that matter. Side note: I absolutely loved the casting of these two women. Laurie Metcalf does eerily look like Saoirse Ronan and the actors both mirror each others’ body language so that you see how much mother-like-daughter there really is between them.
Brooke, how much of Lady Bird’s home can you relate to, and how does Teen Brooke’s relationship with her mom compare to that of Lady Bird and her mom’s?
B: My walls too, were absolutely packed with mementos and photos and posters. I remember the very peculiar feeling of deciding what to take with me and the gaps those items left in what was previously the narrative of my entire life. I still have tons of art on my walls, but it’s all in frames now, and I have embraced the concept of white space. But the act of curating a space to my personality has never lost sway with me (as you can attest) and now that I have an entire office at work I have totems on all sides of me. It’s inexplicably comforting. I grew up in a series of apartments and townhomes, so I do remember moments of going to friend’s homes and thinking what we could do with so much space. But quite the opposite of Lady Bird, my mom’s place was where my friends (with the nice houses) and I always gathered. My mom would tell you that’s because she was truly a Lorelai. And honestly, she might be right.
But on to the mom and daughter relationship. It’s so pitch perfect I can’t stand it. I definitely never rolled out of a car to end a conversation with my mom — being that it was just the two of us and we were dubbed the Gilmore Girls by friends and strangers alike, we actually got along much better than most mother-daughter duos during the teen years, but we absolutely had our angst (what is growing up if not growing away from someone else’s image of you) and that’s what I loved about Laurie and Saoirse’s approach to these roles. Every interaction was so layered, so heavy with implications that you couldn’t possibly parse out all the feels unless you’ve been or raised a teenage girl (sorry, boys).
I think the scene that best demonstrates the precarious balance that I found so incredible was the Thanksgiving dress shopping scene. Lady Bird elects to go to Boy 1’s house for Thanksgiving, breaking her mother’s heart in the process, but her mother takes her shopping for the perfect dress anyway, as moms do. As the pair leaf through dress after dress, they jab and snipe at each other, each finding accusations in the other’s statements and sick to death of their current situation. Then, they find the one, and all else is forgotten as they are united by a fashion find. I’ve probably lived that exact moment on numerous occasions, and I had no trouble recognizing it as absolute truth.
The other one that really stuck out to me was when Lady Bird and her mother engaged in their favorite Sunday activity: going to open houses of homes they could not possibly afford. I did that with my mom so many times over the years, and it was always a blast — so naturally, I teared up a little bit to see it up there on the screen. But my real floods came near the film’s end, I won’t reveal why, but I’ll venture a hint that it’s the scene that has prompted so many to say Lady Bird made them call their mom. NO, SHE DOESN’T DIE. C’MON GUYS, THIS MOVIE ISN’T BASIC. Anyway, I’m always telling my mom we probably talk too much, but I still texted her to tell her we were seeing it and I couldn’t wait for her to cry a bunch about it too.
Should we talk about early aughts fashion?
A: Can I take a moment to say how glad I am that I didn’t have to wear a uniform to school? I know it’s supposed to make the “getting dressed in the morning in a rush” process 1,000% faster, but still. It looks so stifling. So aside from the uniforms, we have Lady Bird’s faded reddish magenta dye job, the small backpacks, multiple chokers, and the “Is it.. too pink?” prom dress. Actually, Vogue does a better job than I could of breaking down and praising the costumes, and all the pundits are correct: they nail the look completely. I was less emo and less theatre than Lady Bird, but I did do the whole “I like a boy and am therefore going to mirror his look” thing, which at various points included oversized flannels and skater-surfer wear from Pacific Sunwear. I still like Billabong’s clothes, but I have never and probably at this point will never actually skate or board. I’m not that coordinated.
Brooke, what would you classify your look during this pivotal time, and also, did that vary from when you were in later high school years?
B: I definitely had a lot of chokers and generally aspired to be Faith (from Buffy, you know that, our dear readers may not). Of course, I lacked something in the boob department so it was a lot of black and red and t-shirts that felt vaguely rebellious with dark-washed jeans. Later in high school, I would evolve somewhat to a look that I would have called “bookish cool.” It wasn’t cool. I liked plaid and patterns and ironic imagery. And I was aggressively “not girly.” I don’t recall exactly why, but I think it was mostly in an effort to not have to make a lot of effort. I would have loved to have colors in my hair, but it was considered “scene” at the time and I couldn’t subscribe to any one clique. I was very sold on myself as one of the brainy outliers, you see.
You know, I think I would get along with Lady Bird.
A: I feel pretty confident I would have gotten along well with Lady Bird as well. She’s our type of nerd.
It’s November, it’s fall-like, and we’re feeling in the mood for films that feel fall-y. Next time, we’ll go deep into the Brendan Fraser catalogue for a college movie from the 90s.