The Lady Bird Diaries (2023)

The Lady Bird Diaries (2023)

An informative and invitingly personal account into the post-Kennedy years of the US presidency

7.5

Movie

United States of America
English
Documentary
2023
DAWN PORTER, FEMALE DIRECTOR
100 min

TLDR

Behind every great man...

What it's about

Lady Bird's audio diaries made into a feature documentary tell the story of a First Lady as she herself experienced it.

The take

Partially based on the 860-page memoir, "A White House Diary", and on the actual audio recordings Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson made during her time as first lady, The Lady Bird Diaries is an intimate reworking of a past we still know very little about. Told from the vantage point of First Lady Johnson candidly and in detail, the audio track shapes the whole film. All the archival footage is nicely complemented by hand-drawn animations to fit the missing images, but all the visuals are always in service of the narration. In this way, the documentary becomes a piece of history and an archive in itself, its illustrative functions – a crucial storytelling tool for posteriority.

What stands out

This film is already a documentary within the documentary, its core consisting of footage and voice recordings trimmed down from over 123 hours of chronicling her time in the White House. Released after Lady Bird's death in 2007, these audio-memoirs are a unique artefact as an insider's look into the US politics of the 60s, its figures and its overlaying contexts. The figure of Claudia Johnson (Lady Bird) is not more than just an addition to her husband, The President's, name and status, instead, she emerges as a documentarian in her own right. Therefore, director Dawn Porter's mission is to liberate Lady Bird's narration from the audio track and pair it with evocative and fitting images to match.

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