Throughout my formative years of movie consumption, I have found that I have either subconsciously or consciously developed a rating scale that is based on the character of Vada from My Girl. The 13-year-old me sat with 11-year-old Vada, as she signed up for an adult summer writing class much to her teacher’s dismay. In that moment, I felt like we were the same person. In a way, my movie consumption has gone through its own coming-of-age from Vada to Christine in Lady Bird.
Identifying with a movie character is like meeting your future best friend for the first time. And put it into a coming-of-age movie, and you’ve got magic. I saw My Girl for the first time when I was 6, and as I grew older, I began to relate with Vada on a level that I had never experienced with other movie characters before. She felt and thought the exact same things that I felt and thought. The more I watched it, the more certain scenes would stand out to me on a different level than before. The search for a relatable, thoughtful movie at this point in my life has ended with Lady Bird.
This refreshing take on the way a teenage girl views her world sets this coming-of-age film apart from others, set in Director Greta Gerwig’s hometown of Sacramento, California in the early 2000s. Saoirse Ronan plays a teenaged malcontent named Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson who is ready to head off to college and experience some rights of passage along the way.
Lady Bird is the girl that you aspire to be, the girl that you want to be friends with, the girl that you envy in the best possible way. From the opening credits, you want to jump into the screen and be her best friend. Her faded brown-to-pink hair, picture-covered walls and unique outfits made me feel like I had found a big-screen kindred spirit — in the form of a fictional movie character.
One of the most important things about the film is its timelessness. It takes place during Lady Bird’s 2002-2003 school year, and many of the relationship dynamics and experiences presented are common and relevant today. The relationship Lady Bird has with her mom, played by Laurie Metcalf, is one that almost every girl has felt with her own mom. While shopping for a prom dress at the local thrift store, Lady Bird asks her mom if she likes her. Her mom replies, “I want you to be the best possible version of yourself that you can be.” Lady Bird pauses and quietly asks, “What if this is the best version?” The scene ultimately ends in tears and tension. The minimal dialogue and the simplicity of this scene to create a relatable situation is brilliant.
The relationships in Lady Bird bridge the gap between generations of women and accentuates the idea that regardless of the setting and time period, experiences remain the same.
Lady Bird fights with her mom and makes her cry in 2002 — in 2017, girls are doing the same thing. This becomes even more evident in the scene in which Lady Bird gets lectured by her mom about her clothes on the floor: “Weren’t you ever a teenager? Didn’t you ever go to bed without folding your clothes?” Her mom stares at her hard before leaving the room. As I sat in the theater with my dad and four older women, I felt a connection each time we laughed or drew in long, thin breaths. We have all experienced heartbreak, internal battles and accomplishments in one way or another.
In the same way I felt like I was living my life vicariously through Vada, I had a similar feeling when Lady Bird and her best friend Jenna sat post-breakup in the car blaring “Crash Into Me” by The Dave Matthews Band in an effort to mend Lady Bird’s broken heart. It was as if I was watching scenes from my own life unfold on the screen in a beautifully simplistic way — again.
We have favorite movies, because they give us a way to go back to certain feelings or times in our lives. As we get older, it reaches us on different levels than it did before. My 6-year-old self will never know how My Girl would affect the 13-year-old me. Watching it now, it resonates with me in different ways. It is the movie for my 13-year-old self. Lady Bird came to me just like My Girl did. Lady Bird makes you think about being 28, looking back on how you spent high school and how you will view yourself differently.
You may shed a few tears and experience a little bit of tension watching Lady Bird; you may even sing along under your breath to a breakup song. Lady Bird is more than just a tear-jerking, coming-of-age cliche. It is real-life personified. Even if you’re watching it with your dad.