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Film / Lady Bird

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Father Leviatch: "Lady Bird"? Is that your given name?
Lady Bird: Yeah.
Father Leviatch: Why is it in quotes?
Lady Bird: I gave it to myself. It's given to me by me.

Lady Bird is a 2017 coming-of-age dramedy film written and directed by Greta Gerwig as her debut solo directorial effort (she'd previously co-directed Nights and Weekends with Joe Swanberg). The film stars Saoirse Ronan, with Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Lois Smith in supporting roles.

The semi-autobiographical film centers around Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Ronan) during the course of her 2002–03 senior year at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California, including her attempts at finding love and getting into a college far away from her hometown, and her conflicts with her strong-willed mother Marion (Metcalf).

In making the film, Gerwig set out to offer a female counterpart to coming-of-age films like The 400 Blows and Boyhood, and spent years writing the film's script, which at one point was over 350 pages in length.

Lady Bird provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Past: As stated numerous times, the movie is set in 2002/2003.
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: Invoked by Casey Kelly, the pro-life advocate who comes to Lady Bird's school and tells the story about a woman who almost got an abortion, but chose not to. The girls in the audience guess that she's the woman in the story, but Casey corrects them—that woman was actually her mother, and she's the result.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Lady Bird opines she wishes her mother liked her, Marion replies that of course, she loves Lady Bird. Lady Bird then replies, "But do you like me?" — and Marion is left unable to answer.
  • As You Know: In the opening scene, Lady Bird mentions to her mother that it's the year 2002.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Many of the performances in the school plays are stilted. The teachers cast everyone who auditions, even resorting to inventing roles to ensure that everyone gets a part.
  • Bait-and-Switch Accusation: While Lady Bird is stealing a magazine from a shop, she hears Danny shout "Stop!", but when she turns around, it becomes clear he was actually talking to his sibling.
  • Beauty Inversion: Saoirse Ronan herself usually has great skin, while Lady Bird has acne and pockmarks on her face. In the year before filming, Ronan started suffering unusual breakouts due to fatigue and wearing a lot of makeup. The makeup artist suggested not covering it up as much, as such acne would be typical for a high schooler, and Ronan agreed.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lady Bird finally gets what she wants and is attending college in New York, but she gets badly homesick and calls her mother to let her know she understands her better.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The film centers on the conflict between Lady Bird and her mother but avoids completely taking sides with either of them, portraying both of them as having legitimate complaints at various points. Which one of them, if either, is the more sympathetic is largely left up to the viewer.
  • Break the Motivational Speaker: Lady Bird and her classmates are required to attend a talk by a pro-life speaker (it's a Catholic high school) who tells them an "uplifting" story about how her own mother decided not to have an abortion as a pregnant teenager. Lady Bird does not find this convincing and picks a fight with the speaker, resulting in her suspension.
  • Brick Joke: Early in the film, Sister Joan leads a discussion on prom themes; one of them is "Eternal Flame." Sure enough, in the prom scene at the end of the movie, we see that they went with that motif: there are flames and fiery decorations everywhere.
  • Central Theme: According to director Greta Gerwig, the film is about how "one person's Coming of Age is another person's time to let go."
  • Coming of Age Story: The film is centered around Lady Bird's senior year, and her longing for independence, with all the reckless teenage decisions that come with it.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Kyle deconstructs this. He says things like how he doesn't like money, the government is tracking you through cell phones, etc, but the film shows that he's just saying all this without any conviction or depth.
  • Delayed Family Acceptance: Implied. Larry instantly agrees to help Lady Bird apply for expensive colleges on the East Coast despite the financial burden which leads to him having to remortgage their house. Her mother Marion, on the other hand, is furious and barely speaks to Lady Bird for the rest of the movie, both for going behind her back and for being a Spoiled Brat. However, at the very end after dropping her off at the airport, Marion breaks down in tears and appears to accept Lady Bird's dream.
  • Did Not Get The Guy: Lady Bird doesn't end up with either one of her love interests. Though by the end, she doesn't seem all too bothered.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Christine is very very insistent on being called "Lady Bird." She gives up on it when she moves to New York, in an apparent attempt to reinvent herself.
  • Dramedy: Oh, big time. Lots of poignant, even tragic moments mixed with all the ridiculousness of youth.
  • Epigraph: The movie opens with a quote by Joan Didion.
    "Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento."
  • Everyone Has Standards: The cool kids are not especially upstanding people, but none of them ever judge Lady Bird for her working-class background.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: When she starts hanging out with Jenna, Lady Bird starts wearing her hair in a ponytail with a ribbon just like she does.
  • Fish out of Water:
    • After Father Leviatch leaves the school to check into a mental hospital for his suicidal tendencies, another priest named Father Walther takes his place as director of the drama program. Trouble is, he's the school's football coach and knows nothing about directing. He designs blocking for the shows like a gridiron play, with the different actors as Xs and Os.
    • Played more seriously in two cases with Lady Bird. In the first case, she clearly doesn't fit in with the "cool kids" of her school, which culminates in her ditching them to go to the prom with Julie. Secondly, she's not exactly comfortable in New York at the movie's end and ends up homesick.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Lady Bird notes how "dexterous" Kyle is in putting on a condom in spite of being a virgin. A few minutes later, he admits that he's not a virgin.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Close-ups on Marion's handwritten letters reveal some interesting tidbits, such as the fact that Christine was a happy accident (the exact wording implies fertility problems, which also neatly explains the presence of the clearly-adopted Miguel).
  • Gayngst: What Danny goes through, much to Lady Bird's consternation, though when he apologizes and breaks down, she offers him solace.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: A pro-life speaker is brought to the school and tries convincing the students about this with a story of her own mother who decided against getting an abortion. Lady Bird is not convinced by this and tells the woman so quite rudely, resulting in her suspension.
  • Good Shepherd: Lady Bird's two drama teachers are priests, and although their quirks are Played for Laughs, both teachers legitimately care about their students and work (in their own ways) to help the drama club succeed.
  • Happily Adopted: Miguel. His girlfriend Shelly is also brought in successfully.
  • Hated Hometown: Lady Bird's loathing of Sacramento is her impetus to try and attend college on the East Coast. However, Sister Sarah Joan notes that she writes of Sacramento with detail that borders on affection, and by the end of the movie, she's entering Sunday mass in a Catholic Church, clearly homesick.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Miguel has a very grunge-y aesthetic with lots of facial piercings that Lady Bird points out as probably getting in the way of a job offer. He inadvertently shows up to the same job interview Larry's going to, cleaned up with no piercings, and looks very handsome. He gets the job.
  • Hope Spot: Lady Bird repairs her friendship with Julie, ostensibly dumps her pretentious boyfriend, graduates high school, and all is well in the family. Then the audience gets reminded, for the first time in what seems like a while, that Lady Bird and her father were working behind Marion's back to apply to colleges on the East Coast. This sets off what is arguably Lady Bird's biggest crisis in the movie – dealing with her mother's silent treatment for months until she leaves for college and ultimately realizing (after a wicked bender, no less) that she wouldn't be where she is if not for her family, particularly her mother, and also her hometown.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: A big part of the story is Lady Bird's ever-increasing interest in finally getting laid with the boy of her dreams - which goes as bad as you can imagine for the first time. Also, Lady Bird and Julie discuss their preferred methods of masturbation, and Lady Bird later indulges herself while thinking of Kyle.
  • Hot for Teacher: Julie has a crush on the math teacher, Mr. Bruno, and is disappointed to discover he is Happily Married and expecting a baby.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Lady Bird and Julie fawn over how attractive Jenna is.
  • Informed Attribute: Invoked Trope. Apart from his pills, we never see Larry's struggle with depression - because he's actively hiding it from Lady Bird, and keeps doing so even after Marion admits it to her. In reality, it can also be quite hard for others to tell.
  • Informed Flaw: Marion claims that Lady Bird is a lazy student. Yet we see Lady Bird at least making an attempt at participating in a math olympiad despite math not being her strong point, and we are told that she actually received pretty fair SAT scores. Subsequently, she manages to get into the college of her choice, albeit while on a waiting list, and even receives a scholarship to defray the costs. This all suggests that Marion's criticism is unfounded.
  • Innocently Insensitive: When Danny first meets Lady Bird's family, he cheerfully notes that when Lady Bird said she "lives on the wrong side of the tracks," he didn't expect to literally cross railroad tracks when getting to her house. Marion's pained expression after that comment shows how much it hurts her.
  • In with the In Crowd: Lady Bird and Julie drift apart as the former tries to ingratiate herself with Jenna and Kyle's more popular social circle.
  • It's All About Me: Lady Bird demands to go to an East Coast college despite the family's tenuous financial circumstances, has her father drop her off a block from school, and temporarily dumps Julie to get new friends. Both Julie and Marion call her out on this, and she gets better as time goes on. Also, Kyle, who lies to Lady Bird about being a virgin.
  • Jerkass: How Marion is initially presented. Also Jenna, who is even flippant about suicide. Kyle, too.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Marion may be blunt with Lady Bird, and her attitude toward her daughter attending an East Coast school borders on cruel. But it would be a huge financial burden for a family that's living on a single income, especially after Larry loses his job, to say nothing of the cost of things like cell phones and plane tickets.
    • During one of her fights with her family, Lady Bird correctly points out to Miguel and Shelly that companies are less willing to hire people with face jewelry. Sure enough, once Miguel removes the jewelry (and tames his grungy hair), He Cleans Up Nicely and finds a well-paying desk job.
    • As a general rule, a college admission counselor's first response to someone admitting they'd like to attend an Ivy League school shouldn't be a burst of laughter. But Lady Bird isn't a great student and has limited extracurricular activities, so getting into any high-tier college would be difficult, let alone some of the best schools in the United States.
  • Jerkassto One: Marion is caustic to Lady Bird in the way only close family can be. Hurt people hurt people, and they can't get enough distance to stop hurting each other and reconcile until Lady Bird escapes to the other end of the country for college. The movie shows Marion being a sweet and considerate angel to everyone else, which makes her cutting remarks even more painful in the moment.
  • Jobless Parent Drama: Lady Bird's father was recently fired. This causes tension in the family because Lady Bird wants to go to an expensive private college in the East, while her mother doesn't want her to and brings up money as a reason why. Lady Bird, who attends a private school and picks up rich friends partway through the movie, also feels insecure about finances as a result and lies to them about her lack of a Status Cell Phone. It's also revealed that her father is on anti-depressants in part due to his unemployment.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Lady Bird finds Danny kissing another boy in a bathroom stall.
  • Meaningful Rename: Lady Bird is her given name, she explains, because she gave it to herself. At the end of the film, she starts going by Christine again.
  • Mock Millionaire: Lady Bird pretends to be a rich kid to fit in with the cool kids, but her charade falls apart by the end of the year.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • One of the film's hallmarks. Just one example: the sex scene between Lady Bird and Kyle goes from tense and romantic to humorous when she realizes that he's already finished to heartbreaking when Kyle comments that he's lost count of the number of girls he's slept with despite saying that he was a virgin to devastating when Lady Bird walks out of the house and sees Kyle's dying father with an oxygen tank in the living room.
    • It's also manifested in Marion and Lady Bird's relationship. The two can be arguing and sniping at each other one minute and then gushing over a dress quite literally a split-second later.
  • Moving-Away Ending: The movie ends with Christine leaving Sacramento to go to NYU, though there's a brief epilogue where Christine gets alcohol poisoning in New York and comes to terms with her mother's love of Sacramento.
  • Outgrowing the Childish Name: "Lady Bird" abandons her self-proclaimed nickname and starts going by her given name, Christine, when she goes to college, a time when she starts to realize the negative effects of her previous stubbornness.
  • Parental Blamelessness: The film seems to sympathize a lot with Lady Bird's mother, appearing to imply that, even though her behavior is not always sympathetic, she is doing the best she can in a difficult family situation. Indeed, the film ends with the protagonist calling her and saying sorry (for defying her in conspiring with her father to get her into an East Coast school). However, when one follows the mother's actual actions throughout the film, it becomes clear that the latter was emotionally abusive and that it was effectively she who drove Lady Bird away from her.
  • Parents as People: Neither of Lady Bird's parents is perfect, particularly Marion, who nitpicks the family and doesn't say yes when Lady Bird asks if she likes her. However, both care about their children very much and work hard to support them.
  • Period Piece: The film takes place during the 2002-3 school year. Whenever someone is watching television, it's news reports on the unfolding War on Terror.
  • Playing a Tree: The drama program creates a large number of roles so that more kids have a chance to be onstage. Lady Bird lampshades this when she and Julie are arguing about the former not agreeing to be in The Tempest; she was apparently given the role of the titular storm.
  • Random Events Plot: The film follows a school year in the life of Lady Bird, and consists of various vignettes.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Exasperated at her mother giving her grief for not properly hanging up her school uniform to help keep it wrinkle-free and keep up family appearances for her schoolmates and their parents, Lady Bird questions whether her mother wasn't ever cut some slack by her mother. Her mom's response? "My mother was an abusive alcoholic."
  • Saved by the Church Bell: The movie ends with Lady Bird having a bad night, seeing a mutilated kid in the ER, and walking aimlessly until she hears church bells ringing and goes to church. Moved by the sound of the bells and the Cherubic Choir, she's finally moved to call her parents and make up for all the shit she's given them.
  • Scenery Porn: Sacramento is a dead-end boresville with such notable landmarks as a skyline featuring Tower Bridge and The Ziggurat, also the film has the McKinley Rose Garden, the Tower Theatre,note  and near countless Fabulous Forties houses. New York briefly gets similar treatment when Lady Bird arrives there at the end of the film.
  • School Play: The school's theater group puts on performances of Merrily We Roll Along and The Tempest as Lady Bird's relationship with two of the actors, her friend Julie and her crush Daniel, develop in unfortunate ways.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Subverted. Lady Bird doesn't get into Berkeley despite her father and adopted brother being alumni. Her father points out that only works if the alumni donate money to the school, which they don't.
  • Senior Year Struggles: Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson is a senior in suburban Sacramento who dreams to go to university on the East Coast, which puts her in conflict with her family. She also starts to fall In with the In Crowd, which causes tension with her longtime best friend in their last year of high school.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: When Lady Bird angrily chews Kyle out for lying to her about being a virgin, Kyle starts to bring up war, only for Lady Bird to snap at him that other things can be sad and not everything needs to be compared to war.
  • Silent Treatment: Marion refuses to speak to Lady Bird after she learns Lady Bird applied to East Coast colleges behind her back, even though she only got waitlisted. She continues to hardly speak to her daughter until she drops her off at the airport, where she becomes distraught and regretful in the car.
  • Skyward Scream: After Lady Bird first kisses Danny, she does this in the middle of the street on the way home, just out of sheer joy.
  • Slapstick: An argument between Lady Bird and her mother upsets them both so much that Lady Bird dives out of the moving car and tumbles down the road.
  • Smash Cut: The shot of Lady Bird jumping out of the moving car, described above, immediately cuts to the cast she's now wearing on her arm after injuring it in the fall.
  • Speed Sex: Lady Bird's first time. She's downright disappointed when Kyle is already done.
  • Stargazing Scene: The film has one between Lady Bird and her first love Danny. She asks him to pick a star for them, and then they start cuddling. Afterwards, they discuss a name for their star, with Danny suggesting "Claude" but Lady Bird finding it too pretentious and suggesting "Bruce" instead.
  • Stern Nun: Subverted with Sister Joan. While she is strict at certain times, it's also made clear that she's very reasonable and cares very much about her students. She even reacts to Lady Bird's and Jenna's "Just Married to Jesus" prank by admitting it was funny. Even the rebellious Lady Bird, who clearly doesn't take to authority well, ends up liking her.
  • Take That!: Part of the film's structure as Gerwig's love letter to her hometown involves taking shots at the dull, unadventurous, mildly conservative tone of Sacramento, including Lady Bird's description of it as "the Midwest of California" and the winner of an opening quote by fellow Sacramentan Joan Didion: "Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento."
  • Their First Time: Lady Bird and Kyle have theirs, though it's revealed Kyle was not only lying about being a virgin in the heat of the moment and not only lost count of the people he's slept with but was also terrible in bed, much to Lady Bird's displeasure. Lady Bird is in a state of bliss until the truth is revealed, at which point she reveals she didn't actually have that great of a time.
    Lady Bird: I just wanted it to be special.
    Kyle: Why? You're going to have so much un-special sex in your life.
    Lady Bird: I was on top! Who the fuck is on top their first time!?
  • Twisted Echo Cut: When Lady Bird accuses Julie of being a "bad decision" her mother made when she was 19, the scene cuts to a pro-life speaker giving a lecture at the gym about Teen Pregnancy.
  • Unexpected Virgin: Subverted. The Troubled, but Cute, cool Kyle tells Lady Bird he's a virgin and is later revealed to have been lying.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: An extremely drunk Lady Bird vomits on the floor right as she's about to hook up with someone she's just met.
  • Wall Bang Her: After the kissing-by-the-pool scene, we cut to Kyle humping Lady Bird against a corridor wall.
  • Was Too Hard on Her: Granted she never actually says it, but Marion's face just screams this as she drives away from the airport, with Lady Bird headed for New York.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Due to the film's structure as a slice of life from Lady Bird's point of view, we don't get the full details on some plotlines, and some reach no resolution by the film's end. What happens to Kyle's father with cancer or what becomes of Father Leviatch checking into a mental hospital, apparently for suicidal thoughts, have no resolution.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Lady Bird lives literally on the wrong side of the tracks, as Danny learns when he comes to visit her. Lady Bird's family is significantly more working-class than her wealthier classmates.
  • Your Makeup Is Running: Christine's makeup has run all over her face when she wakes up at the hospital after she couldn't hold her liquor.


Video Example(s):


Star Gazing in Lady Bird

Lady Bird and Danny pick their star

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / StargazingScene

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