Lady Bird (2017)
From Lady Bird’s first scene to its last, the film nails the angst, wonder, sorrow, and fun of one young woman’s journey as she navigates the halls and parties of her senior year in the high school. The film opens with Christine ‘Lady Bird ‘McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), and her mother are coming back from a long trip visiting a prospective college with her very opinionated mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Their relationship is summed up in their conversation, which goes from enjoyment to downright despite in what seems like seconds. As the argument gets heated, Lady Bird gets so fed up that she opens her door and rolls out of the car, no matter that she will get hurt. The heart of the film is this mother/daughter dynamic; mom can’t help herself from constantly criticizing her daughter and daughter can’t understand why her mom won’t just let her alone, let her live her life the way she wants to. Caught in between this constant war of wills is Lady Bird’s father, Larry (Tracy Letts), an even-keeled kind of guy who can see the points of view of both of the women in his life. Complicating things is Larry and Marion’s adopted older boy, Miguel (Jordan Rodriques) who, though he has graduated from college, lives at home with his girlfriend Shelly (Marielle Scott) and works as a grocery store clerk in town.
Lady Bird, who continually reminds people not to use her real name, is a high school girl who when she makes her mind up, acts on those decisions without doubt or hesitation. When she sees a cute boy Danny (Lucas Hedges) look at her in class, she sees it as an opportunity to talk to him, instantly letting him know that she is willing to go out with him. When told by a counselor that she might like theatre, she drags her best friend, Julie (Beanie Feldstein) to a tryout and gets cast in the school’s musical. When told by her mother that she should go to a local college, Lady Bird instead applies for schools on the East Coast, even though she has been told she doesn’t have the grades or the money to get in.
Lady Bird is all about dreaming for a better life. She desperately wants out of Sacramento, where she lives, thinking. Lady Bird and Julie fantasize about living in a big house, one that they walk by almost every day on their way to school. Like all teenagers, she is susceptible to following fads and other’s tastes. When she sees a boy she is interested in reading Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States; she starts reading it too.
The film takes place between 2002 and 2003, so 9/11 and the Iraq War fill the TV. It’s a time where you had email, but there wasn’t iPhones or Snapchat to obsess over, so Lady Bird’s obsessions are boys, theatre (for a while) and getting into a college far away from Sacramento. Like any other high school girl, Lady Bird is all about boys and finding someone to date. When she sees an opportunity to be a part of the ‘in’ crowd by helping out the most popular girl, Jenna (Odeya Rush), she goes for it, dropping her best friend Julie without putting any thought to the consequences.
Lady Bird moves at a quick pace as it shows snippets of Lady Bird’s life throughout her senior year and is filled with memorable moments, like Lady Bird getting into a debate with a pro-life speaker at an assembly, that leads to her getting suspended from school. Her first time having sex has a beautiful moment where she realizes that the too cool boy that she has fantasized about is not as caring and cool as she thought he was. It’s these moments that hit the hardest, that make this such a memorable film.
Saoirse Ronan gives the performance of a lifetime, making Lady Bird seem so real and making it a moving experience to watch her up on the screen. Ronan is a joy to watch, as she brings life to every scene that she is in. Ronan is perfect as the teenager who is desperate to get out from under her mother’s gaze and is ready to make her place in the world. It’s a performance that will surely be rewarded by the upcoming end of the year awards and hopefully, next year’s Academy Awards.
Equally up to the task is Laurie Metcalf who plays the mom that can’t keep her opinions about her daughter to herself. It’s to Metcalf’s acting prowess that we don’t hate Marion, in fact, we know through Metcalf’s actions and body language that she loves her daughter, she just doesn’t know how to relate to her.
Writer/director Greta Gerwig has done the impossible; making a coming of age film about a teen girl seems fresh and not contrived. Lady Bird is an enchanting film that is full of surprises, meaningful moments and performances that you don’t want to miss. Lady Bird was so unbelievably great that I didn’t want it to end. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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