Sometimes I get really lucky and, almost by accident, some of the movies I see in a given year have varying degrees of similarity. Without intentionally doing it this way, I just so happened to see both LADY BIRD and TERMS OF ENDEARMENT for the first time this December, and they’re actually quite similar.
Despite many, many differences, at their core both of these movies are about the relationship between an over-bearing mother and her daughter. These are relationships which are quite unhealthy in many ways, but each of them is written with such complexity and depth of emotion that they come across very realistic and, for many, (unfortunately) relate-able.
TERMS OF ENDEARMENT won quite a few awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, Director, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor. Now 34 years later, LADY BIRD is receiving similar lauding by the various award shows. And it’s no surprise that either film is being recognized.
The matriarchal character in each film brings together great writing and an equally strong performance. Both Shirley MacLaine and Laurie Metcalf bring to life characters who are equal parts frustrating, emotionally abusive and deeply caring for their daughters. Neither seems to fully grasp how best to show their love and support, and each fails in a different way.
It would be easy to assume that LADY BIRD is loosely a remake of TERMS, but apart from their core, the differences are stark, primarily due to the respective ages of the daughter in each film. Where TERMS focuses on Debra Winger’s character as she enters married life and deals with raising a family and dealing with serious illness, LADY BIRD sees it’s titular character (portrayed by Saoirse Ronan) work her way through the final year of high school and her transition into the future. They’re both coming of age films, but they approach it differently. Whereas the primary focus on Greta Gerwig’s 2017 hit is clearly on the daughter, the 1983 film puts enough emphasis on the matriarch that Shirley MacLaine won for BEST ACTRESS, whereas Laurie Metcalf is nominated in a clearly SUPPORTING role.
It’s tough to say whether I would have given the BEST PICTURE award to TERMS for 1983, and once I see enough films from that year I might attempt to make a judgment, but it’s easy to see why it got such praise. It hits a variety of notes and does most of it well. Nothing spectacular, though.
My TERMS OF ENDEARMENT rating: 80 out of 100
While I still don’t know what I would say is the BEST PICTURE of 2017, I have seen enough to know that I wouldn’t cast my vote for LADY BIRD, despite it being a quality film. It, too, had nothing particularly spectacular about it, despite the fact that it very realistically depicted the day to day life of a teenage girl. Having two sisters and plenty of female friends, I can assure you that it felt authentic.
My LADY BIRD rating: 83 out of 100