A teen coming-of-age film nominated for one Oscar—let alone several—is rarer than a UFO sighting. But voters, critics, and audiences were bowled over by Greta Gerwig’s effervescent directorial debut Lady Bird, a love letter to our wandering teenage selves. Saoirse Ronan exquisitely captures the rawness of being seventeen, portraying the titular protagonist as equal parts curious, witty, and resolutely selfish.
Watching Lady Bird’s unsavory behavior forces the viewer to look inward, asking themselves, “Was I really that bad as a teenager?” Yes. Yes you were. But even if we cringe at our moody adolescent demeanor, we should celebrate the fact that we’ve grown and evolved so much since. Whether you’re fifteen or a hundred-and-fifteen, you're sure to appreciate this list of some of the movie's most inspirational quotes.
10 “Money is not life’s report card.”
Lady Bird is a fantasist with a spirited artistic soul. Having an imagination as vivid as hers can be a powerful tool... when it’s put to good use. However, throughout most of the film, Lady Bird prefers to channel her creative juices into daydreaming about wealth. Her mother Marion—played by the scene-stealing Laurie Metcalf—tries to ground Lady Bird with this ever-so important reminder, but Lady Bird’s head remains stubbornly stuck in the clouds.
At the other end of the spectrum is Jenna (Odeya Rush), a rich senior at Lady Bird’s school. She doesn’t want for anything because she has everything. Jenna has no aspirations other than staying in Sacramento and being a mom, whereas Lady Bird craves culture and experience. Even if she doesn’t know it, Lady Bird is positioning herself to live a much fuller life than Jenna. This reminds the viewer than when searching for purpose, you’ll never find it in your bank account.
9 “The government didn’t have to put tracking devices on us. We bought them and put them on ourselves.”
While today we value smartphones the same way we do our limbs, Lady Bird takes place in the early 2000s when cell phones were just hitting the mainstream of teen culture. Lady Bird’s crush, the superficially deep Kyle—played to satirical perfection by Timothée Chalamet—is impressed at Lady Bird’s subversiveness by not owning a cell phone.
Kyle may be a pseudo-intellectual, but his prediction is frighteningly astute. In today's society, it’s almost impossible to function without a mobile phone. While they’ve certainly made life more convenient, there’s something disquieting about being reliant on a device that can pinpoint our precise location at all times. We may laugh at Kyle the twenty-first century Jack Kerouac wannabe, but this is a solid reminder that life exists outside our phone screens.
8 “You aren’t gonna get in a car with a guy who honks, are you?”
For a guy who recently lost his job and whose family is on the verge of being broke, Lady Bird’s father Larry (Tracy Letts) is one easygoing guy. His approach to parenting is night and day from Marion’s. He takes a step back and lets Lady Bird make decisions—and mistakes—for herself. But when Kyle picks Lady Bird up for prom by honking, Larry proffers this question to his daughter. He is completely calm in his demeanor and doesn’t judge when Lady Bird responds in the affirmative.
Questions like these remind us to always have a high sense of self worth, especially in new relationships when romantic thrill can overshadow red flags. Lady Bird already recognizes Kyle for what he is, but this is her father’s sweet way of telling her what it really means to be a gentleman. You can’t have everything in life, but everybody deserves a person who picks them up at the door.
7 “Some people aren’t built happy, you know.”
Lady Bird is a whimsical delight, with most scenes finding the viewer grinning from ear to ear. However, the film does deal with serious subject matter. Though it’s not a main plotpoint, a few characters live with depression. While it’s unclear if that’s the case for Julie (Beanie Feldstein), Lady Bird’s BFF, it’s apparent that Julie has a much more sensitive skin than Lady Bird. Julie never says anything, but she is obviously crushed when Lady Bird ditches her for the more glamorous Jenna.
Eventually, Lady Bird is able to realize that friends like Julie don’t come along every day. When she reconciles with Julie, Lady Bird finds her crying, not for any particular reason but simply because she’s sad. Nobody’s life is easy and we should make the effort to give that extra little bit of kindness, especially to our best friends.
6 “I wish I could live through something.”
For Lady Bird, Sacramento is the place where excitement goes to die. That’s the main reason she wants to go to college on the other side of the country. Lady Bird seeks the sort of adventure worthy of an epic novel. However, what she fails to realize is that everyone has a story worth telling, even her.
In the span of a year, Lady Bird lives through domestic turmoil, getting suspended, and not one, but two heartbreaks. Her words are a rallying cry to never get too complacent in life, but also to recognize the poignancy of our own personal story.
5 “It’s not important to be right. It’s only important to be true.”
An entirely new film could be devoted to the character of Father Leviatch (Stephen McKinley Henderson), a sensitive priest battling loneliness and possibly depression. Though not many scenes are devoted to Father Leviatch, the ones that are are bursting with warmth and authenticity. He’s the director of the school musical and this quote is a just piece of advice during a warm-up exercise, but it can, and should, be applied to everyday life.
Lady Bird’s main source of strife is her tumultuous relationship with her mother. These stubborn women are like rams locking horns. Lady Bird’s philosophy is to always be wanting more, and Marion’s is that you should be satisfied with what you already have. The paradox is that both mother and daughter are right and wrong at the same time. Lady Bird spends so much time wanting that she isn’t able to practice gratitude at all; Marion has gratitude to spare but doesn’t understand that aspirations are what help us grow. When these two finally stop trying to be “right”, they are able to see the truth in the other’s perspective.
4 “Different things can be sad. It’s not all war.”
One of our biggest rites of passage is our first sexual experience. When Lady Bird loses her virginity to Kyle, she is devastated to find out that he lied about being a virgin himself. Instead of apologizing, this toxic hipster doubles down on his odiousness, belittling her sadness by comparing it to the carnage of the Iraq War.
While it does us good to remember that no matter what we’re going through, there’s somebody out there who always has it worse, we have a right to our feelings. Lady Bird owning hers may not mitigate the situation, but there’s power in honesty and letting somebody know they’ve crossed a line.
3 “Just because something looks ugly doesn’t mean that it’s morally wrong.”
It’s not entirely unfair to think of Lady Bird as a desperate attention-seeker. She performs like a provocative circus animal, seeking validation from boys and the popular crew. But this is one instance where Lady Bird isn’t trying to shock. She simply disagrees with what’s being taught at a school pro-life assembly. Even though she’s honestly expressing her opinion, Lady Bird doesn’t realize how profound these words are and that they go far beyond the issue being discussed.
As people, we have the desire to stamp everything with a black-and-white label. Lady Bird certainly does. Sacramento: bad. New York: good. The houses in “the forties” are stunning; her family home on the “wrong side of the tracks” is a dump. As she graduates both high school and childhood, Lady Bird takes this eloquent quote and applies it to her own life, seeing beauty where she never would have imagined.
2 “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”
Lady Bird may not have a high opinion of Catholic school, but the nuns and priests who work there seem to be full of nothing but compassion and wisdom. Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith) bowls Lady Bird over with this deep question in regards to Lady Bird’s college application essay about Sacramento. It provides Lady Bird with a lot of emotional clarity, that there’s so much in her life that she loves but has neglected, primarily her relationship with her mother.
In between arguments, there’s little time for Lady Bird to show Marion her love, but it’s that very love that is the source of their tension. Lady Bird desperately wants her mother’s approval and lashes out when she doesn’t get it. On the surface, this looks like hate, but it’s really the complex way people show their love. The film ends with Lady Bird paying attention to Marion by calling her and thanking her.
1 “I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.”
It is this character-revealing quote from Marion that lets the viewer know why she’s so hard on her daughter. Marion sees so much of herself in Lady Bird. She knows that Lady Bird is capable of being a truly wonderful, loving person if only she would get her priorities straight. Eventually, Marion understands that you can’t bulldoze your daughter with your beliefs and expect her to change overnight.
This quote is the perfect mantra for everyone to live by. Imagine waking up and saying this to yourself every morning. Not only would we be more likely to make somebody’s day, we’d also feel a greater sense of happiness and purpose.