Second Sight: Lady Bird: A Negative Response

Et tu, Rotten Tomatoes? 185 reviews and still standing at 100%? Then why did I almost whip out my cellphone to check the time remaining on the film? 

Have you ever been to a movie so bad, that you walked out of it in the first fifteen minutes? I haven’t yet, but almost did with my experience of Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. Adequate performances by Lucas Hedges (Manchester By the Sea) and Laurie Metcalf couldn’t save the film. LGBTQ issues couldn’t save the film. Not even its rich genre, bildungsroman, could save the film. So, what was the big issue? Plot and pacing; let me explain. 

The film opens up by establishing Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson’s relationship with her parents. Perhaps somewhat of an underachiever, Christine, or “Lady Bird” as she prefers to be called, clashes with her mother about where she should go to college. Here we see the first weakness in the film; the screenplay relies too much on dialogue. The repartee between the mother and daughter misses the mark in terms of being markedly dramatic, tragic, or comedic. There are so many (potentially interesting) events that can happen in a coming of age story that a screenwriter of this genre needn’t rely on dialogue to make a good film. Unfortunately, Gerwig’s choice of dialogue falls flat, and her scenes which comprise the story of an American, female, high school senior don’t fare much better. 

The “conflict” or “confrontation” in this film is a monster many of us have encountered -- a mother who disagrees with us. Gerwig’s problem in Lady Bird is that she over-humanizes the relationship Lady Bird has with her mom, as they oscillate between bickering and embracing. The film would’ve been stronger had the tensions been more exaggerated, the drama more heightened, and transformations of character more profound. In short, this film suffers from being too real. 

The cinéma vérité aspects of the movie give the watcher an experience of a litany of events. There was no climax, and no rising action. This film fails to get you hooked; it only takes you for a stroll.

If you’re a movie goer who likes to watch a story that is intricately composed into a form that is moving or satisfying, this film is not for you. However, if like cinéma vérité, such as Bicycle Thieves, or any other movie where “life just happens”, you may like this movie. As you may have well discovered, I do not. 

-Blake Pynnonen