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.

2 reviews

  • (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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  • 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

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