Lady Bird, sounds like a classic 1950’s jazz album. Spoiler: It’s not, but it is the nickname that Sacramento high school senior Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) wishes to go by. She’s the artistic, headstrong, and independent type. Her personality often gets her into clashes with her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), who only wants Christine to be the “best version of herself.”
Lady Bird wishes to go out to New York for college despite the financial struggles her family is experiencing, as she is convinced she needs to get away from sleepy Sacramento to thrive. Before it’s time to fly, she’ll find out that there are many, many more lessons for her to learn before leaving the California roost.
From Spider Man: Homecoming to Dope to Brooklyn to The Edge of Seventeen, the last few years have shown that there is always room for a well-told coming-of-age movie regardless of setting or even main genre. The latest in the subgenre comes from Greta Gerwig, known mainly for acting more so than directing at this point. In her first full directorial credit, she’s steered Lady Bird to 195 fresh reviews on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing. If yours truly’s post were factored into it, I certainly wouldn’t break the streak. Lady Bird is deserving of its praise.
Lady Bird doesn’t breathe completely new life into the coming-of-age genre, but no movie really does in this subgenre. Still, it’s an extremely authentic and rooted portrait of growing up, seemingly inspired by Gerwig and her experiences growing up in Sacramento; the extent of what actually occurred and didn’t is a mystery. Doesn’t matter though, because, Gerwig’s writing is so honest and natural. Everything from the dialogue (possibly the most important thing in a coming-of-age: do the kids sound like kids?) to the traversing of high school and the many mines that are present each day. Gerwig imbues this familiar story with quirkiness and humor emphasized by the opening music by composer Jon Brion, but never forgets the heart, also punctuated by two beautiful end tracks.
Lady Bird isn’t a film one would necessarily think would be cinematic, but boy, it certainly is. The sleepiness and tucked away vibe of Sacramento, California serves as a perfect backdrop for this drama shot on location. Who knew that 2002 had such nostalgia and a real aesthetic to it? Going far beyond the timely Justin Timberlake “Cry Me a River” and other fitting musical songs (some were released around 2002 but all fit the style of the film) and fashion styles, the world Gerwig creates is very memory-evoking. Immersion may not be the right word, but Greta makes the viewer feel like they’re a fly on the wall watching all of this unfurl with the small but noticeable details.
Most teenagers are hard to get, bold one moment, afraid the next. Gerwing’s writing is great for her two lead characters, and her stars take advantage of it. No longer an up-and-comer, Saorise Ronan is simply one of the best thespians today. With Lady Bird, she’s allowed to be a lot more dynamic and proactive than, say, Brooklyn, another great movie and role albeit more reactive. Sometimes you love her for wanting to be so independent, sometimes you hate her for being so selfish.
But it’s always realistic, as is the mother of Lady Bird played by Roseanne alum Laurie Metcalf. Like Christine, Marion is far from a perfect individual, but one can see where she’s coming from. The clashing of mother-daughter is compelling and uncomfortable in a way not seen in a long time in cinema, and both should be on the short list for every major award circuit. Not to be forgotten are castmates Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, Timothée Chalamet, Odeya Rush, and especially, Tracy Letts as the father on hard career luck having an equally hard time serving as the glue that holds the household together. His actual screentime may not be enough for serious consideration, but nonetheless, his time on the screen is moving.
As we fully descend into awards season with the recent announcement of the Golden Globes, Lady Bird certainly has a presence with four nominations. Safe bet that the rest of this season will find Lady Bird perched somewhere near the top.
Photo credits go to npr.org, HD-Trailers.net, Youtube.com, and glamour.com.
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Solid review. I’m a fan of Gerwig and it only fits that she would do well behind the camera. I think there are some minor issues with her story but ultimately you nailed it – very authentic and rooted.
Thanks Keith, toggled between an A- and a B+, regardless, high marks. Kept on thinking about The Edge of Seventeen, which I think I like slightly better but it’s all preferences.
Edge of Seventeen is really good. Was late getting to it but I’m a big fan.
Can’t wait for this to arrive on our shores. The buzz has been tremendous and your glowing review certainly adds to that.
The lead performances are great but the direction is surprising too. Emotional watch in just a little over 90 minutes.