A frustrated California high-school senior navigates her final year as she struggles to earn a place at an East Coast college and gain some independence from her overbearing mother.
I was trying to work out what the hook is and came to the conclusion that there isn’t really one. It’s the sort of film that could only get made if you’ve got a bit of street cred in the industry.
As for the inciting incident, I almost went with something like “When her overbearing mother wants her to go to a West Coast college” but I almost feel like it’s simplifying everything a little. I feel like her desire to go to college in New York is a response to everything in her life that she is unsatisfied with, not just her mother.
“Frustrated” – I’m not completely happy with this word. I would say that she is unsure of her place in the world, desperately wants to be seen as independent but frequently makes decisions that suggest she wants to fit in too. If anyone can suggest something better than “frustrated” I’m open to suggestions.
The thing I really loved about this film is the ending. It’s refreshing to not see that clichéd run through the airport for a meaningful goodbye, and similarly it was refreshing for her mother to not pick up the phone. It’s a happy ending but more so for the audience than Lady Bird and her mother. It perfectly sums up their I-love-you-but-I-can’t-stand-you relationship that is at the centre of this film.
This is the kind of film that’s easier to get made after a writer is established in the industry, after the writer is known as Greta Gerwig instead of Greta Who? The story checks all the boxes for just about all the tropes in the coming of age genre.:
Has identity issues (hence, the name “Lady Bird”) — check.
Hates high school, floundering in her classes –check.
But interested in drama and the arts–check.
Loses her virginity and it’s underwhelming — double check.
Is ashamed of her folks, hides her socio-economic status by getting dropped off in a classier neighborhood–check
Fights with her mom–check.
So what stands out as a distinguishing feature? Well, there’s the highly conflicted daughter-mother relationship. There’s the opening bookend scene where the daughter deliberately falls out a moving car to get away from (another) argument with her mom. And the closing bookend scene where she must leave a voicemail.
So I diddled with a version that plays with the clashing temperaments:
A stubborn high-school senior desperate to escape Sacramento, attend college on the East Coast must overcome the objections of her strong-willed mother who insists she attend a local one.
More steak than sizzle. But there it is.
When it comes to objectively stating her dramatic need (what she thinks she needs, before she knows any better) this version is competently worded. Only it lacks the necessary hook, but maybe such is the nature of this film.
I find it hard to point towards a particular event that leads her to want to go to an East Coast College. The first major event in her life is meeting Danny; this effectively begins to disrupt her status quo. Having said that, it’s only in the beginning of Act 1 that her father loses his job, which does help escalate the conflict between her and her mother (which to me is the key plotline). This is also where Greta setups Ladybird’s objective goal. So when you say “..to earn a place at an East Coast college and gain some independence from her overbearing mother”, it would be cool if we can find an inciting incident to make her want to seek her freedom.
First half of Act 2 concerns with ‘her fighting who she is’; getting in disagreement with her mother, losing virginity, making a new set of friends.. Second half is when she decides where her loyalties lie. Her resolution can be justified in her solution to her identity crisis (which serves as her journey as a protagonist). From the third act (& even the denouement), it is safe to conclude that it’s strictly a “mother-daughter” movie. Hence, I’m glad to find her mother in the logline. Good job!