Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Odeya Rush, Kathryn Newton, Beanie Feldstein, Jake McDorman, Lois Smith, Jordan Rodrigues, Laura Marano, Bob Stephenson, Stephen McKinley Henderson
R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
After spending years toiling away in the indie circuit with plenty of recognition of her acting talents, Greta Gerwig steps behind the camera for the second time (the first time solo) in the fascinating coming of age story Lady Bird, which explores the young life of a lower middle class Catholic family in Sacramento.
The best young talent of her generation, Saoirse Ronan continues to impress with her performance as young Christine, who has dubbed herself “Lady Bird” as a way to reclaim her own identity. As her High School journey comes to an end, she begins to explore who she is as a person before heading off to college. As she rebels in the most passively aggressive way possible, she begins to understand who she is, who her mother (Laurie Metcalf) wants her to be, and whether she wants to risk everything and strike out on her own or remain near the only home she’s ever known.
Gerwig’s films have been emblematic of the indie movement for years and Lady Bird is perhaps the pinnacle of that style. It is a charming, intelligent, humorous, and beautiful film. Part coming of age story and part existential comedy, the film gives voice to a generation of youngsters who felt like outsiders in a scholarly environment that favored the privileged.
Any kid from the wrong side of the tracks can recognize elements of their own lives in this film: longing to be thought of as more than the “poor kid,” wanting to find a way to be better than their parents while still cherishing them, and exploring a world that seems so foreign to them, but also quite exciting.
Ronan brings out the vulnerability and hope of Lady Bird, finding her home and romantic lives a shambles in myriad ways, but always trying to find the kernel of hope that will get her through. Frustrated by her mother’s inability to let go of the practical, she finds refuge in her father (Tracy Letts) who recognizes her desire to fly free like her eponym, but is unable to be the rock she needs thanks to financial stresses outside of his control.
Metcalf embodies every mother. A woman trying hard to keep food on the table while being frustrated that she can’t do more. She wants desperately to be there for her daughter, afraid that she’ll leave her, but also afraid that she’ll be trapped in the same financial situation the family is in. It’s a nuanced performance filled with passion and anguish.
Letts as Lady Bird’s father is also strong while former Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges handles a poorly written character, Lady Bird’s first romantic interest, well enough. The rest of the cast flits in and out of the film with impact, but without needing to excel beyond simple characteristics.
It was wonderfully surprising to see Stephen Sondheim’s musical Merrily We Roll Along used as a central element to an early portion of the film, one that’s used both as a backdrop and as a thematic representation of the collapse of Lady Bird’s early relationships.
Lady Bird takes to realism with great interest, creating a believable family environment that feels familiar and fresh while being tinged with surrealistic elements that give it some comedic depth. It gleams under the glow of stars Ronan and Metcalf and under the enchanting guidance of Gerwig.
Oscar Prospects (Itemized prior to the Oscar nominations)
Guarantees: Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf), Original Screenplay
Probables: Picture, Actress (Saoirse Ronan)
Potentials: Director, Film Editing
May 10, 2018