“I wish I could live through something.”
Cultural revolutions happen when a generation gets old enough to get their ideas out into the world. The baby boomers had their revolution in the 60s and 70s. Gen-Xers like me had ours in the 90s. Well, guess what? We’re due for a new revolution for the Millennials. Over the next 5-10 years, we’re going to start seeing media through the eyes of Millennials. Leading the charge in this revolution is the brilliant Greta Gerwig with her directorial debut, Lady Bird. Starring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, this film neatly encapsulates the gap between Millennials and Generation X, as well as the frustrations that Millennials faced in adolescence. It’s also a sweet, funny, and touching story about a daughter growing up with an overbearing mother. This film works equally well as a coming of age story and a metaphor for the coming of age of an entire generation, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better Millennial anthem than this film.
The plot follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a seventeen-year-old high school senior living in Sacramento in 2002, attending a Catholic high school and longing for more exposure to arts and culture. Her mother, Marion, loves Lady Bird deeply, but doesn’t seem to know how to best help her as she moves into adulthood. Lady Bird is a teenager, and some shenanigans are had, but there are also some incredibly deep and all-too-real issues that are deal with by Lady Bird and Marion.
Don’t you think that maybe they’re the same thing? Love and attention?
Watching this film, some of Marion’s statements to Lady Bird seemed brutal. While it was clear that she loved Lady Bird very much and was on the verge of emotional collapse herself, but I can’t imagine saying some of those things to my child. That’s where the metaphor comes in, and it helped me understand the film a lot more. Lady Bird isn’t just a Millennial—she’s every Millennial. Marion is, similarly, every tired Gen Xer trying and often failing to understand the next generation. The things Marion says are brutal, but they are exactly what Gen X (and other generations) have been saying and writing about Millennials for years. Society has been the overbearing parent of the Millennial generation for almost 20 years, and now we’re finally getting an unfiltered look at what it looked like on the receiving end.
I’m making this sound like a boring sociological study. This is a brilliant metaphor for the Millennial generation, but, like I said above, this works equally well as a coming of age story about a daughter with parents who just don’t get her. The film is simultaneously funny and depressing, sweet and biting, and the relationships and situations feel more real than just about any other teen movie. There were some hilarious moments and others that nearly brought me to tears, and through it all, I just loved Lady Bird. She’s a remarkably well-written and likeable character. Marion, for all of her faults, is ultimately a loving mother trying her best to help her daughter, even as her own struggles threaten to overwhelm her. This isn’t just an insightful film—it’s a truly enjoyable one too.
Lady Bird is an amazing intellectual achievement for the Millennial generation and its success will pave the way for more uniquely Millennial stories to be told in film. The ultimate message is that what Generation X has passed down to the Millennial generation is not perfect, but it is still very much appreciated. Unlike the emotionally brutal cultural revolution of the 90s, the coming revolution will be tempered with compassion, gratitude, and the undying optimism Millennials are becoming known for. Every Millennial frustrated with the way society has talked down to them needs to see this movie, and I’d recommend it to Gen Xers as well to see things on the other side. It’s also just a great coming of age movie and is able to stand on those merits as well. Great movie. Watch it.
Director: Greta Gerwig
Genres: comedy, drama, indie, teen