For the last few years my family has consistently gone to the movies on Thanksgiving weekend. It all started back in 2009 when we celebrated the holiday at my grandmother's house in Florida. She and my dad were in the kitchen arguing over which dish should go in the oven when (and for how long), at which point my mom and I snuck out and took cover at the movie theater down the road. During our refuge we saw the Michael Jackson documentary This Is It.
Since then we've seen many great movies on Turkey Day weekend - Birdman, Spotlight - and this year was no exception. On Thanksgiving Eve (Wednesday night) my mom, my sister and I headed to the Coral Gables Art Cinema to see Lady Bird.
Lady Bird is written and directed by Greta Gerwig, best known for her role in the 2012 film Frances Ha. The film stars Saoirse Ronan (of Brooklyn fame) as a high school senior, trying to survive her final year at home. Ronan's character, Christine, has renamed herself Lady Bird, a nickname her mother detests.
Actress Laurie Metcalf (from Roseanne) plays her mom and daily sparring partner. Pictured below, the two fighting in a department store dressing room.
In the movie, Lady Bird's senior year is the year 2002, which is the same year I graduated high school. As soon as we got out of the movie, I Googled Greta Gerwig because I had a feeling she was exactly my age. She nailed that time in American history so perfectly that I knew it had to be autobiographical. Sure enough, she was born in 1983 (one year before me).
The film highlights many of the realities of that year - parents struggling with the job market after the dot-com bubble burst, fear in the air after 9/11, the beginning of teenagers with cell phones - and much more.
One item in the cultural time capsule was the popularity of the Dave Matthews Band song, "Crash." In the film, Lady Bird sobs over a break up while she listens to the song on repeat. In my life, that song is attached to memories of a very handsome fellow camper at overnight camp, strumming his guitar on a picnic table.
Gerwig captured all of the excitement, joy and anxiety that is rolled up in senior year. From applying to college, to the moment when you stop caring about getting good grades, to stressing over who will be your date to the prom - she paints it all exactly the way you remember it. Watching it I laughed, I blushed, I teared up - it was just perfect.
In addition to being an extraordinary portrait of life in high school, Lady Bird is also a love letter to the city of Sacramento, where the film is set. When I was in 11th grade I had an English teacher who would have us complete the same exercise before beginning a new book. The night before we started reading, we each had to research three facts about the author and three facts about the plot of the book. Every time there were clear parallels between the writer's personal life and the story in the book. I knew as soon as the credits rolled that Greta Gerwig had to be from Sacramento, CA. I grabbed my phone to check and sure enough - she is. I thought back to that teacher and his go-to line, "Authors always write what they know."
The same way New York is integral to Sex and the City or Boston is home to Good Will Hunting, Sacramento is the natural place for Lady Bird. The movie feels like a love letter to Gerwig's home town, even if it took her a while to realize the place she always thought she wanted to escape, was actually a huge part of making her who she is today.
I don't want to give away anything about the plot or even my favorite scenes because you should see it. I will say, there are several great performances and the movie is cast expertly. Saoirse Ronan inhabits Lady Bird in a way that feels like the part was written just for her. You almost forget that in real life she speaks with an Irish accent. She brings to the role a magical balance of teenage angst, insecurity, vulnerability and a desire to be independent.
Her best friend, Julie, is played by Beanie Feldstein. You'll find every one of their moments together so amazingly relatable.
Lady Bird's first love, Danny, is played by Lucas Hedges (of Manchester By The Sea). Watching Lady Bird and Danny will throw you right back to the first person you ever crushed on.
I still think the best movie I've seen this year is The Big Sick, but Lady Bird is a very close second. As we walked out of the theater and sat down to dinner, I just kept saying, "I loved it. I really, really loved it."