Lady Bird (2017)

  • Time: 94 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: Greta Gerwig
  • Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts

Storyline:

Christina “Lady Bird” MacPherson is a high school senior from the “wrong side of the tracks.” She longs for adventure, sophistication, and opportunity, but finds none of that in her Sacramento Catholic high school. Lady Bird follows the title character’s senior year in high school, including her first romance, her participation in the school play, and most importantly, her applying for college.

4 comments

  • (RATING: ☆☆☆☆ out of 5) 
         
    GRADE: B   

    THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.

    IN BRIEF:  A good (not great) film with sensitive direction and two wonderful performances to enjoy.

    SYNOPSIS: A coming of age story with mother-daughter issues.

    RUNNING TIME: 1 hr., 34 mins.

    JIM’S REVIEW: The volatile relationship between parent and child has been a popular subject in the arts. That unpredictable bonding between father and son or mother and daughter makes for an interesting combination. The latter is on display in Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s engrossing character study of a young girl’s flight of fantasy or her flight away from a domineering mother.

    Set in 2002, a.k.a. Christine McPherson (a.k.a. Lady Bird) is in her final year of high school, eager to shake off her town and family and fly east to New York City to make her dreams come true. Ashamed of her middle class upbringing, she is eager to fly the coop. Her father, Larry, is so mild-mannered and non-descript that he is basically ignored by his loved ones as he negotiates the war between the women in his household. Her mother, Marion, is not the nurturing type and her actions are second place to her verbal assaults. Far from encouraging, she would rather have her idealistic daughter view life in realistic terms, another words, accept the sadness of it all. So Lady Bird has no other choice but to rebel against her parents, friends, and her rigid Catholic School regime, all of which are trying to hold her back from her own experimental impulses.

    This set-up is all too familiar territory, but as the director, Ms. Gerwig captures the awkwardness of adolescence and that hormonal imbalance that signifies innocence and self-importance. Her observational glimpses into first love (and that first real kiss), teenage authority issues, and peer pressure are spot-on. The predictability factor is still there, and some scenes go on a bit long, but there are also some surprising events added to the drama about working class economic struggle that are quite telling and unusual for this genre.

    As the screenwriter, Ms. Gerwig is mostly successful. Script-wise, this coming of age tale wanders and loses focus with its plotting and the sketchiness of its minor characters, most of which remain interesting, but underdeveloped. Their fates seem to get lost in the storytelling. Yet, at the film’s core is the effective mother and daughter tag team bout that makes this film so special. These two characters are rich in details and depth. Their dialog sounds refreshingly honest and natural and the two actresses excel in making their mercurial relationship utterly convincing.

    Saoirse Ronan in the title role delivers a fully realized portrayal of a teenager holding onto her dreams and defiantly expressing her independence. This talented actress plays her eccentric character as one part exasperating and and two parts enchanting.  Her excellent performance is matched by Laurie Metcalf’s sharp tongued and distraught  matriarch.  As Marion, her verbal reactions hide the love for her daughter and watching the actress’ subtle expressions after words are cruelly and hastily spoken brings the necessary depth that prevent her from becoming a monster. (The film’s most memorable and bittersweet scene involves an uncomfortable conversation in which Lady Bird simply asks her mother if she likes her, preceded by a hesitated and jumbled answer. That delayed response says much about the sensitive writing and nuanced acting in this film.)

    Tracy Letts is Lady Bird’s understanding father and peacemaker of the family and he creates a strong character in this meek ordinary man. Also notable are Lucas Hedges as Lady Bird’s first love and Beanie Feldstein as her loyal sidekick. The always dependable Lois Smith and  Stephen McKinley Henderson deliver short but noteworthy moments in their smaller roles.

    Ms. Gerwig has directed her film with a deft vision, even if her screenplay could use more cohesion. Still, Lady Bird is fast becoming a darling of the critics and their many accolades seem slightly overdone. It is a good, but far from great, film…with great, not just good, performances by its female leads…and well worth seeing.

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    ANY COMMENTS: Please contact me at: jadepietro@rcn.com

  • Lady Bird is my latest write-up. As you might have already discovered, it has nothing to do with the 36th President’s late wife.

    So yeah, “Bird’s” ending left my mind up in the air as well as on the edge of something. Still, this is a near-perfect film. It’s definitely one of 2017’s best.

    Lady Bird gives people like writer Diablo Cody and director Kelly Fremon Craig a run for their money. It has the blueprint of a familiar teen drama but so what. “Bird” shoots from the hip and dives much deeper than stuff like Juno and The Edge of Seventeen.

    Every sequence in “Bird” feels raw, unflinching, and just plain genuine. Every actor nuance is blessed with unassuming clout. With whip-smart dialogue, grainy locales, and keen direction by actor turned director Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird puts coming-of-age candor through the almighty ringer. All the characters (including the lead) are fully realized and no one harks a false note. Did I mention that Sacramento, California is this flick’s unheralded star? It’s true. So true.

    “Bird’s” story involves one Christine McPherson (played by Saoirse Ronan). Christine is a high school senior. She insists on being called “Lady Bird” and the pic never quite tells us why. She lives in Sacramento but wants to get out. Being from a lower-class family and having a love- hate relationship with her overbearing mother (Marion McPherson played by Laurie Metcalf), Christine dreams of attending college in New York. That way she’ll make a ton of money and eventually thumb her mom’s nose in it (in an unconditional, loving way of course).

    In retrospect, I’m hoping that Ronan and Metcalf get well-deserved nominations at the Academy Awards (for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively). Also, I’m rooting for Gerwig’s truth to life screenplay to get some recognition as well.

    Overall, Lady Bird has the makings of a tender, persona study. It also contains a seething, coffee shop soundtrack and unfeigned acting of the highest order. With this film, the “bird” is undoubtedly the word! Rating: 3 and a half stars.

    Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

    Check out other reviews on my blog: http://www.viewsonfilm.com

  • “I think the learning part of high school is over,” says the titular character of Greta Gerwig’s semi-autobiographical directorial debut, Lady Bird. Yet as she’s about to find out, the learning part of life has only just begun in this resonant coming-of-age drama.

    Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) is the preferred moniker for one Christine McPherson, a 17-year-old high school senior who thinks nothing of throwing herself out of a moving car just to end one of the many arguments she has with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Like most teenagers, Lady Bird is keen on asserting her independence and distancing herself from the life she knows. She wants to go to an East Coast college though Marion, mindful of the pricey college tuition, would rather she attend a local school instead. Her father Larry (Tracy Letts) is a bit more open-minded, though he understands his wife’s concerns about money especially since he’s unemployed.

    When not clashing with her mother or having snarky exchanges with her adopted brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues) and his deadpan girlfriend Shelly (Marielle Scott), Lady Bird is hanging out with her best friend Julie (the wonderful Beanie Feldstein). The two join their school’s theatre program, where she meets Danny (Lucas Hedges), a good-hearted sort with whom she begins her first relationship. Also in the mix are Kyle (Timothée Chalamet), a moody musician who hand-rolls his own cigarettes and reads Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, and Jenna (Odeya Rush), a popular girl that Lady Bird befriends at the cost of her friendship with Julie.

    Lady Bird crackles with endless reserves of warmth and affection without sacrificing authenticity. The film is replete with moments that speak to both young people, who recognise themselves in the angst-ridden Lady Bird, and adults who can both cringe and appreciate the follies of youth now that they’ve survived it. Gerwig perfectly captures the highs, lows, and inherent awkwardness of teenage romance and sexuality, but the main focus is the push-and-pull relationship between Lady Bird and her mother. The rapport between them feels real – these two can go from enemies to allies within the span of seconds without missing a beat, as demonstrated during the scene where their latest argument is halted by both of them alighting on the perfect prom dress. Marion is a multi-dimensional character, not nagging for the sake of it but because she has very valid concerns that stem not only from her present circumstances but from past ones as well. There’s a startling scene when Lady Bird comes home late, elated from a date, and Marion insists that she put away the clothes in her room. It may seem a ridiculous request, but Marion states her case for why she prods her daughter the way she does and then punctuates the scene by offhandedly mentioning that her own mother was an abusive alcoholic.

    Metcalf is sensational, making the most of this showcase of a role, always revealing that beneath Marion’s hard facade is a woman who simply wants the best for her child. Ronan has had no shortage of good roles since her Academy Award-nominated role in Atonement when she was a mere thirteen years of age, but Lady Bird and her work in it feels a turning point, in much the same way that Rebel Without a Cause and A Place in the Sun were for Natalie Wood and Elizabeth Taylor, respectively. Much like Lady Bird, who is shedding the girl she is for the woman she will be, Ronan firmly proves that she has come into her own and that she is even more of a force to be reckoned with.

    Click here for more reviews at the etc-etera site

  • “What if this is the best version”.

    Rating: 10/10.

    When did you grow up? I am now 57, and I’m still “working towards”! I remember distinctly though at the age of 16 thinking “I’ve got there”. And then again at 18. And then again at 21. And then again at 25…. There is something sweet about the certainty of youth that only life’s ultimate experiences can roughen the edges of.

    “Lady Bird”, the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, features one such teen who thinks she knows it all. Looking and acting for all the world like a 15 year old (something that Margot Robbie really can’t pull off in “I, Tonya”) Saoirse Ronan plays Christine McPherson who has the given name (“I gave the name to myself”) of ‘Lady Bird’. She is struggling with a lot of issues: an unreasonable and overbearing (parents: read ‘perfectly reasonably but firm’) mother (Laurie Metcalf, “Roseanne”); the issues of puberty and young love; the constrictions of a Catholic school she despises; and her inability to perform to the grades she needs to get into a college of her choice. That choice being on the East coast as far away from the backwater of Sacremento (“the mid-west of California” – LoL) as she can get.

    Love comes in the form of two serial male fixations: the gorgeous and artistic Danny (Lucas Hedges, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, “Manchester By The Sea”) and the aloof and enigmatic Kyle (Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”).

    This is a near perfect coming of age film. The plot, while fairly superficial and covering ground well-trodden before, fully engages you and makes the running time just fly by. And there is just so much talent on show. The script by Gerwig is chocker-block full of great and memorable lines; Ronan is pitch-perfect as the irascible and cock-sure teen; Tracy Letts (“The Post“) is magnificent in the less showy role as the “good cop” dad, struggling invisibly with his own demons; and Metcalf gives an Oscar-nominated performance that really should give Alison Janney a run for her money… a drive away from an airport conveys just perfectly every college-age parent’s emotional low-point.

    Where perhaps the film overplays its hand a bit is in the “wrong side of the tracks” line. The household while struggling is by no means trailer-park poor (compare and contrast with “I, Tonya”): perhaps this is the depths of financial desperation found in Sacremento? But I doubt it… there still seems to be money available for fancy cowgirl outfits.

    Which leads me to the rating, which seems to have been a common rant in the last few weeks. I would have thought that there was nothing like this film to turn the mirror of reasonableness on a young teen, perhaps helping them to treat their parents better, work harder for college or make better choices. Yet it has a UK 15 certificate. And for what? There is a full frontal male photo-spread in “Playgirl” (I want to say “it’s a penis, get over it”, but if forced I would have frankly just snipped the 50 milliseconds out to get the lower rating). And there are a few (only a few) F- and C- words. I have the same problem here as with “Phantom Thread” – here is a high-class film that a young teen audience would absolutely love to see. I think the BBFC have got it wrong again here.

    I cannot recommend this film enough: a tale of teenage life love and resolution that is hard to beat. Possibly one of the best coming of age tales I’ve ever seen. On the basis that it looks like I will never get to see “Call Me By Your Name” – the only major one I’ve missed – before this Sunday’s Oscar ceremony, what a great way to round off my Oscar-viewing season.

    (For the graphical review please visit bob-the-movie-man.com or One Mann’s Movies on Facebook).

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