When the final frame of “Lady Bird” faded to black signifying the film was over, I realized I was not fond of the ending.
It isn’t that the film isn’t good; it’s fascinating. I don’t completely hate the ending either. I just didn’t get the ending I was expecting, and that didn’t sit very well with me.
The ending I anticipated was a montage of how she continues her journey through life: graduating from college, getting married, etc. The fact that the ending was odd to me gave me pause. I wondered why I had responded to the ending the way I did.
I found myself thinking about the effect “Lady Bird” had on me and how I related to the characters in the story. I didn’t really think about the fact that the film has a mostly female cast because to me it is one of the things that made the film so captivating.
Instead of a coming-of-age film from a male perspective — which does happen even when the film’s main character is female — we have a story told by a woman from the female perspective, and that is a beautiful thing.
The experiences Saoirse Ronan’s character has may have been from a female point- of-view, but they were experiences, not unlike ones that I had when I was a teenager, and I could relate to hanging out with your best friend, arguments with one parent or the other, and the first kiss with a person you really like.
If I were to compare director Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” to another coming-of-age film. “Pretty in Pink” for example, I’d say there were moments I was reminded of the classic Molly Ringwald film, but unlike that ‘80s classic, “Lady Bird” is not a film about a female in high school falling in love with the man of her dreams. It is a story about a teenager who wants to find her place in the world and the relationships she has.
Of those relationships in the life of Christine McPherson — who calls herself Lady Bird — the one she has with her mother stood out to me the most.
Here is a 17-year-old girl trying to understand herself better and really experience things. Her mother spends nearly every waking hour discouraging Lady Bird’s dreams of going to New York and criticizing almost every decision the young teenager makes.
In one scene, Lady Bird is brought home from school after telling a woman advocating for abortion at an assembly that“Just because something is ugly, doesn’t make it morally wrong.”
Her mother is angry and proceeds to tell Lady Bird she and Lady Bird’s father do so much for her and spend so much of the money they don’t have on her, basically giving the teen a guilt trip about how much they sacrifice on her behalf.
A later scene shows Lady Bird trying on prom dresses, and when she finds a dress she likes, her mother replies with “Does it have to be pink?” instead of telling her daughter it looks nice on her.
These examples of a mother unable to express her love for her daughter made me angry. I couldn’t believe how critical she could be. It reminded me of my relationship with my father when I was 17 and what my perception was at that time.
It was that connection to the film and how I related to Lady Bird, which helped me understand that the ending of the film is the perfect end to Lady Bird’s journey because it brings her closure, so my initial lack of fondness for the end of the film turned to acceptance.
“Lady Bird” isn’t an “art imitating life” sort of film. It is a different kind of blossoming into adulthood, which celebrates life and the journey one takes toward self-discovery through the people who surround us just as Lady Bird does through her relationship with her mother, her first boyfriend and first break up, and even realizing who her true friends are.
Gerwig does a fantastic job of balancing comedy, drama and even a little nostalgia for those who were teenagers in 2003. It is a beautifully crafted film and told in a way that I think will resonate with all who view it.
That the film has received academy awards nominations for best picture, director, actress, supporting actress and best original screenplay is quite an accomplishment, and I think Greta Gerwig is well on her way to becoming the second woman in academy history to win the Oscar for best director, a deed previously accomplished by Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” who was the first woman to win the award.