Blog Lady Bird: A Conversation

Posted November 8, 2017

By JBFC Membership & Marketing Associate Nicole LaLiberty, JBFC Programming Administrator Saidah Russell, and JBFC Marketing Associate Sarah Soliman

Lady Bird is the solo directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, who audiences might recognize from 20th Century Women, Frances Ha, or Jackie, among her other credits. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) stars as the titular Lady Bird (a self-chosen moniker) a high school senior in Sacramento, California, with a rebellious streak and dreams of heading to New York City for college.

Over the course of the film we witness Lady Bird’s tumultuous relationship with her mother (played with exasperated, acerbic perfection by Laurie Metcalf, TV’s Roseanne)—a relationship likely to feel familiar to anybody who has ever had a mother of their own, her close but shifting friendship with Julie (Beanie Feldstein, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), her crushes on two very different boys, Danny (Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea) and Kyle (Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name), and meet a host of characters whom Gerwig infuses with such authenticity and humor they feel drawn from our own lives.

Three JBFC employees saw Lady Bird in advance of the film opening here at the Burns. Below is a conversation about this affecting, hilarious film. Warning: contains mild spoilers. 


Nicole LaLiberty: I don’t know where to begin.


Sarah Soliman: There are a lot of emotions with Lady Bird.


NL: But it’s very funny too. You’re laughing and you’re crying.


SS: Often at the same time, which is ideal. Greta Gerwig manages that balance so well.


NL: The script was really great. It felt very authentic, which is hard to do in movies about teenagers. I was reading an interview with Greta Gerwig and she said that the most authentic way to have teenage dialogue sound funny wasn’t writing jokes, it was writing them saying things really earnestly.


SS: That’s such a great insight because I don’t know if that would ever occur to me on my own, but that is absolutely what makes Lady Bird so funny.


NL: They just really mean everything they say. That’s what happens when you’re a teenager. You feel things 10 times harder than everybody else and nobody else understands it, except the people your own age who you’re close to. I loved Lady Bird’s best friend, Jules. She’s who I identified with the most. Watching it I felt like I’m not Lady Bird, I am Jules, but not even as confident as Jules.


SS: One of the great things about Lady Bird, not that Jules is a side character, but how real all those secondary characters feel. You have Stephen McKinley Henderson as a priest, Lois Smith as a nun, all these side characters who you didn’t necessarily learn that much about but any one of them I would have been perfectly happy to watch a whole movie about them.


NL: You just get snippets of their personality. Also, as someone who went to Catholic school and has tried for a long time to explain to people what that was like, I want to direct people to this movie and show them it’s not the horrible thing you think it is. The priests and the nuns are also people. You see that in Lady Bird. They’re all just people. The nuns crack jokes. Talking about Stephen McKinley Henderson, this movie deals with mental illness really openly. It’s just out there. Everyone in this movie is dealing with something. Which is amazing, for teenagers to see that approach. You see that her dad has depression and Lady Bird and her mom have a casual conversation about it.


SS: The whole movie is like that. It feels very natural, without losing any of Greta Gerwig’s specific sense of…I don’t want to use quirkiness…


NL: Whimsy.


SS: Yes. Lady Bird has a lot of humor and playfulness that seems very specific to Gerwig, but grounds it in a way that’s true to life.


NL: What was your screening like? At ours, everyone was laughing at all the jokes, and we had a very varied audience, all ages, and the moments where I felt like “that’s totally happened to me” everyone in the audience was laughing. Which is the point of the movie.


SS: We had a packed screening, and it was a similar experience. People seemed to be responding so much to it.


NL: It’s nice to have a movie about a teenage girl that so many people are relating to. Although it’s as much about the mom as it is about the daughter.


SS: Yeah, you get the sense that people are going to relate to Lady Bird or Julie or the mom, or all of them, or, to go back to what a great job Gerwig did with the side characters, a lot of people will relate to the dad. Every character has something you can latch on to.


NL: Everybody has that dynamic between Lady Bird and her mom, in some way. You might not have that relationship with a parent but you have it with someone in your life, someone you feel bound to, even though they’re not the most supportive person you know they care about it without always showing it. That was so relatable from both sides. You can be Lady Bird or the mom depending on the relationship.


SS: And it’s so sympathetic to both of them.


NL: Yeah, I went back and forth between both sides and just ended up crying. Can we talk about the bad boyfriend?


SS: Kyle.


NL: Oh Kyle. I know I just said I want to talk about him but I don’t even want to think about him.


Saidah Russell: He’s not bad. He’s not. That why I love this movie so much. It’s not black or white, he’s not bad, he detached, his dad is dying and all that apathy is probably because he has no idea how to deal with that.


SS: That speaks to what we were saying before about how sympathetic this film is to everyone in it.


NL: There’s no villain. Something I thought was interesting was with the better boyfriend, Danny. You only get the details you need about him. You see the amount of kids he’s with in the grocery store and he says “Irish Catholic family.” It’s like bing, bing, bing, and then you find out his news and it’s like “oh god!” “oh no!” Because you’ve found out just three key things about him, so you know things might be extra hard on him.


SS: The film does so much with so little. You feel for him anyway but even more so because of the fragments of his life you’ve seen.  I’m so glad he doesn’t get dropped from the movie when they break up.


SR: That wouldn’t be real. These people are in your orbit for the whole school year.


SS: But I feel like a lesser film would do that. This one’s gone, next! And they handled that transition really well. You might have never noticed someone and then you start to get a crush on them and suddenly you notice them everywhere. They do that so realistically with Timothée Chalamet, suddenly he’s in the background all the time because she’s started noticing him there.  And I also like that you’re given the sense that Lady Bird and Danny could stay friends.

SR: Danny is so earnest and so sweet.


SS: Lucas Hedges is in Moonrise Kingdom where he plays a horrible brat, and then in Manchester by the Sea he’s a cocky kid. He’s going through something horrible and is obviously very vulnerable but he is a cocky, pain in the butt, dating two girls at the same time jock. Then in Lady Bird he’s so sweet and wants to please everyone. For someone so young, who hasn’t been in that many movies, he’s successfully pulled off playing a completely different character in every single thing he’s been in.


NL: The last thing I saw Saoirse Ronan in was Brooklyn and that was also a very different role. She’s also young and has such range.


SS: She’s incredible in this. It’s amazing that you can see her in Brooklyn and then in this and it doesn’t seem strange at all that she’s playing a teenager. She completely embodies it.


SR: Saoirse Ronan is such a fierce presence. I appreciated that so much because even though Lady Bird is questioning certain aspects of herself she has such conviction about who she is. I’ve never seen someone so crazy but so confident about the decisions she’s making.


NL: She’s the teenage girl I wish I was. But even though she’s like an idealized version of what I wanted to be when I was a teen, she still has all those insecurities underneath. It makes her likable. She’s likeable because she’s going for what she wants but also because there’s so much going on in her head all the time.


SS: So we’re all highly recommending Lady Bird?


NL: One hundred percent.


SR: Go see it!


Lady Bird opens at the JBFC on Friday, Nov. 10. Show times and tickets now available.

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