MOVIE: LADY BIRD
STARRING: SAOIRSE RONAN; LAURIE METCALF; LUCAS HEDGES; TRACY LETTS
DIRECTED BY: GRETA GERWIG
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
I looked at my wife during our screening of Lady Bird and saw tears streaming down her face. I knew why she was crying. It wasn't just because Greta Gerwig's directorial debut is a moving experience. It was because she related to it on a whole other level. This coming-of-age story about a high-school senior and her tumultuous relationship with her mother hit right to her's and my core. My wife was only 20-years old when she lost her mother to breast cancer and no matter how far she's removed from it, she will be missing that connection. Like any young-adult, their relationship had disagreements, not out of anger, but out of a loving protection that a mother provides for her child. It's a kind of love that can never, ever, be replaced. This theme is constant in Lady Bird, a film that fully grasps the confusing transition from high school to “the real world”. Gerwig excellently shows the importance of our teenage years and the true connection a mother and daughter have, no matter how much they drive one another crazy. I know my wife misses her mom every day, but here's a comforting movie in Lady Bird, a towering delight, that reminded her and I, that family bonds will never be broken, no matter how far away we are.
The title character is Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), “a name I gave myself”, she proclaims. She's a gaunt 17-year-old, with pink hair, and makes constant observations of her hometown of Sacramento, although she hates living there. It's 2003, where she attends a girls catholic high-school, along with best friend Julie (the always funny Beanie Feldstein). Lady Bird's mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) is a nurse, often working double shifts, while her brilliant father (Tracy Letts) drops in with well-timed jokes and a shoulder for his daughter to lean on when mother/daughter don't get along. Throughout this final year of high-school, we follow Lady Bird's awkward relationships with boys, the stresses of getting into college, her yearning for escaping her coastal cage, and learning about life the hard way.
The major success of Lady Bird comes from fearless writer/director Greta Gerwig. It's insane to think this is a directorial debut. One would believe this was work of a veteran auteur, but what's fascinating, especially if you've seen Gerwig's performances in Frances Ha or Mistress America, is that her talents seamlessly inject into the material. Her mannerisms, a passion for the arts, and honest approach towards the narrative is flawless. It's these reasons that make Ronan's performance even more stellar. The role of Lady Bird feels written for Gerwig herself, yet the Brooklyn star creates her own individual character, alive with wit and charm. And holy cow, is this a funny movie. The laughs come in perfectly timed bursts, where the awkwardness of the high school musical that Lady Bird takes part in, is a solid five minute laughing spree.
Eventually, we begin to see the love that Lady Bird's mother has is endless, even though her daughter might not realize it yet. They live, as Lady Bird puts it, “on the other side of the tracks” and because they don't have the nicest house in the neighborhood and can't afford to shop at the wealthy stores like the other kids, Lady Bird must adapt and learn about life’s disappointments faster. This includes the let down she gets from the two boys she falls in love with. Theatre prep star Danny (Lucas Hedges) and rocker, anti-establishment cool-guy Kyle (Timothee Chalamet) both make a case that men cannot get to Lady Bird's level. Her senior year will become a time where she learns about sex and seeks something better on the east coast, but her home will always be where her heart is.
Everything else you will need to go see for yourself, because Lady Bird is one of the finest films of 2017. Gerwig mixes the crisp language of a Noah Baumbach film, the coming-of-age styles of other films like Pretty in Pink or Heathers, and has one of the best performances of the year from Saoirse Ronan. That's why it was so easy for me and my wife to relate to this beautiful picture, we saw ourselves in Lady Bird. This bird spreads its colorful wings and soars above them all.
Written by: Leo Brady