Greta Gerwig gets the last laugh on the nuns at the Catholic school of her old high school, St. Francis School in Sacramento. As the writer and director of "Lady Bird," Gerwig's creativity lets loose a lashing on Catholic school teachers and the Catholic church.
"Lady Bird" is a movie about a female high school student who is universally unhappy about her life as a Catholic school girl senior. But she has plenty of anger directed at her hovering, controlling mother as well.
"Lady Bird" stars Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Laurie Metcalf (her father), Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet (her father), Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Lois Smith. It's set in Sacramento, California, in 2002.
At the 90th Academy Awards, "Lady Bird" earned five nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress for Ronan, Best Supporting Actress for Metcalf, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director, both for Gerwig.
Any bad behavior that you can imagine happening to a student at a Catholic high school happens in this movie. But it's not the school, it's the student. And it seems to be the ultimate retrospective for Gerwig. Maybe she was not aware of how much she suffered under the strictures of the Catholic church school. Now that Gerwig is older, she can write about it how the nuns humiliated her by measuring the length of their skirts.
Some of the Lady Bird highlights:
- She tells a female teacher at an assembly that if the she had an abortion, they wouldn’t have to listen to her giving a pro-life talk about abstinence: "Just because something is ugly doesn’t mean it’s morally wrong. . . If your mother had had the abortion, we wouldn’t have to sit through this stupid assembly."
- In an argument with her mother while driving in a car, she opens the door and jumps out, injuring her arm. Her pinkish caste reads: “Fuck you Mom."
- She sits in chapel with other girls: “The Lord be with you - and also with you.” She ignores it and does not participate.
- She and her friend, Julie, are lying down in the church, eating sacrament wafers, talking about sex: “You’re not supposed to eat the wafers,” says a concerned student. She ignores her.
- She loses her virginity to a boy who tells her he's a virgin, but he's not. "We’re not virgins now. We deflowered each other. We have each other’s flowers." "I didn’t lose my virginity to you," he tells her, as though it didn't matter. "I lost my virginity to Cassie. I’ve slept with six people." Then she brags about her sexual position when she has sex with a boy: "I was on top, who the fuck is on top the first time." She talks to Julie at the prom about the sex: "I wanted (sex) so badly, but then I found that I like dry humping so much better."
- She visits the house of her boyfriend and sees a picture of Ronald Reagan: “Is this a joke?” she says of it.
- After she turns 18, she buys cigarettes and a Playgirl; we see the naked pictures of men from the magazine.
Her are some of the problems she has with her mother:
- Her mother barges into her room without knocking; she limits her post bathroom towel use to two and complains when she doesn't treat her clothes well: “We can’t treat our clothes like this," her mother says. “We are not wealthy. “
- She aggravates her about how much money they are spending on her. Lady Bird's response: "Give me a number of how much it cost to raise me, and when I get older, I’m going to have lots of money and write you a check for what I owe you so that I never have to speak to you again."
- When is a good time to have sex, Lady Bird asks her mother: “College - college is a good time, and use protection.”
There seems to be a common theme with Gerwig and women like Lena Dunham, another creative young adult, who has also worked her way through the Hollywood industry to write, produce, and direct. Both seem to want to show that women can cause as many problems as men. They can, but it's not attractive, generally speaking.
"Lady Bird" is like a female version of "Risky Business," a movie that stars Tom Cruise. What's the difference? Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise) has some fun and gets into trouble - a lot of trouble. But he acts like a normal boy who gets into trouble. Goodsen really does seem to like his life, at least before a cigar-smoking friend messes it up.
The problem is that when men do these things, they make fun of themselves; when women (or girls) do it, they take themselves too seriously. It's as though Lady Bird is attempting to reform Catholic schools all by herself.
If she isn't trying to do that, she's just an annoying character; She doesn't seem to have fun, or like her life; she causes enough problems for the entire senior class at her school. It's not the school, it's her, because her behavior is generally disgusting and depraved.
Gerwig could learn something from St. Francis of Assisi, the saint for whom her school in Sacramento was named. St. Francis of Assisi is credited with a prayer that Gerwig should take to heart. It applies to women and girls, as well as men and boys:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.
© 2018 Larry Ingram