This is it. The event is nigh. After a packed couple of months, awards’ season finally comes to a close with the 90th Academy Awards this Sunday. This article is the last instalment of an Oscar based mini-series by Blair MacBride. Part Three: Lady Bird.
In this final week, the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay of a Feature Film is on the agenda. Despite it being a category which is tricky to call, with the skilled and delicate writing of ‘Lady Bird’ in mind, Greta Gerwig truly deserves to be the first woman in over a decade to pip the others at the post for this esteemed accolade.
Gerwig’s solo writing and directorial debut features a really warm and relatable script centred around the most challenging period in any adolescent’s life: the transition from the last year of high school into young adulthood. The film is about a teenager on a mission to find out who she is; it’s about the ever-changing relationships with friends and family which affect us all daily; and it’s about the events in people’s lives being told honestly. The story has no race or gender. It’s a snapshot of time that everyone experiences in their life. ‘Lady Bird’ is so significant and is resonating across all audiences because of these wonderful traits.
Set in 2002 Sacramento, California, Saoirse Ronan plays ‘Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson’. As an outspoken 17-year-old, Lady Bird possesses the personality traits of the classic suburban teen movie character. On the surface, she has a burning hatred for her city and a keen desire to escape it. Her family’s financial difficulties, though, make it a turbulent and difficult feat to accomplish. Laurie Metcalf (who deserves the Best Supporting Actress award in her own right) plays Marion McPherson, the pragmatic mother. The meticulously-written rocky relationship between these two characters is the driving force of the movie and it sets the tone throughout of a tough but discreet shared love between mother and daughter.
Scene by scene, the lines are crafted so well that the different aspects of each character are understood in a subtle yet effective way. The most memorable example of that relationship is the scene in the ‘Thrift Town’ shop. To the great reluctance of Marion, she is having to help Lady Bird shop for the perfect holiday dress to wear to her boyfriend’s Thanksgiving dinner. The script cleverly highlights the complicated relationship most people had with their parents through Lady Bird’s mixed relations with her own mother. In particular, the rapid flip of a coin between being in the good or bad books with each other; one moment a parent is seen as a deliberately frustrating know-it-all, the next, they’re your most trusted friend in the whole world. The on-screen chemistry between Ronan and Metcalf is scintillating, but even the latter has commented that ‘it was all on the page, Greta did the heavy lifting on this one.’ Gerwig writes in such a natural way that people of all ages can empathise with every character in this film as they’re just as human as each other.
With that in mind, Lady Bird’s last year of high school is so casually relevant to anyone who has experienced that period in their life. Gerwig engineers the story in such a well thought out manner by emphasising that there’s always something happening on a day-to-day basis. Lady Bird (Ronan), for example, meets her first boyfriend. She has superficial surface encounters with a range of people at school but realises it’s her friend she’s had the longest that cares for her the most. She applies and gets rejected from a number of universities. This is all in a matter of months. Marion (Metcalf) as her mother, on the other hand, has to deal with ‘real-world issues’ like a mortgage, her husband’s redundancy, being overworked in her job as a nurse all at the same time. Gerwig allows the stories of those on screen to flow naturally and realistically. She brings the two characters’ lives together and re-educates those watching that both Lady Bird and Marion represent people with their own important issues in life – and that’s the way it should be.
‘Lady Bird’ could be deemed as ‘Oscar bait’. Another low budget indie film only made to try to win awards but which has done well with audiences. Its difference? The talent of the cast involved and its majestic original script – plus, when you throw in well-timed witty humour amongst the beautifully worded dramatic scenes, you’re quids in.
Two things are clear. Firstly, the writer’s message: life continues to pass by whether you’re happy about it or not, so from time to time, maybe consider how other people are coping with their own worries and help deal with them as much as you can. Secondly, Greta Gerwig should be the one delivering her ‘thank you’ speech after receiving the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards.
By Blair MacBride