Film Review: 'Lady Bird'

 (A24)

(A24)

★★★★

Saoirse Ronan's acting power shines in this coming-of-age picture.

Writer and director Greta Gerwing brings a refreshing and unique perspective to the coming-of-age story, starring a "just kind of different" seventeen-year-old: the self-named "Lady Bird" McPherson (Ronan). The film takes us through all of the happenings of her final year of high school - a Catholic school in the modest Sacramento, California. Despite her quirky and welcoming personality, she has a rather tumultuous and combative relationship with her well-meaning mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), and it's through their relationship that the story blossoms.

 (A24)

(A24)

The focus of their conflict: Lady Bird desires to flee as far away from "the midwest of California" as possible, and over to New York "where the culture is." Marion, gasping at the prospect of out-of-state tuition, suggests she attend a local college for a huge fraction of the cost. And even though their family just barely hangs on to the middle class - Marion works doubles, and the father Larry (Tracy Letts) is out of a job - Lady Bird's sights are nonetheless set on soaring away.

Lady Bird is lectured, scrutinized, disciplined, and gets into all kinds of trouble - making for some of the film's funniest scenes - but you wouldn't expect it from the film's opening scene, a very civil and loving bit of quality time between mother and daughter as they drive cross-country, listening to The Grapes of Wrath on cassette. Enjoy the time here while it lasts - it's advice Lady Bird could certainly hear.

Loosely based on her own upbringing in Sacramento, Gerwig reflects fondly on the remaining precious moments of adolescence, just before graduation comes around and it suddenly off to the races in the real world, The portrayal of early 2000's America, certainly dated but still incredibly familiar, is looked back upon tenderly, even if Lady Bird chomps at the bit to keep pushing forward. As a whole, the film feels like John Hughes decided to write an art-house indie flick with all of the cultural references and situational comedy to match. 

 (A24)

(A24)

Credits to Ronan for not only playing her own part so incredibly well - the twenty three year-old masterfully turns back the mental clock to seventeen - but she does an exceptional job of meshing with her cast. The buddy-buddy moments between Lady Bird and bestie Julie (Beanie Feldstein) are some of the film's most delightful, and her two crossings with teenage love interests Danny (Lucas Hedges, also turning in Three Billboards) and Kyle (Timothée Chalamet best actor nominee in Call Me by Your Name), offer a sobering, yet humorous reflection on young love.

Getting equal attention, of course, is all of the little conflicts and arguments between Lady Bird and Marion. These are even further uplifted bty Metcalf's performance, who also garned a supporting Oscar nomination for the role. The two together are a solid pairing that Gerwig successfully utilizes to concoct a story that's not just unquely her own but, paradoxically, one we can all relate to.

It's a coming-of-age story with perspective: suddenly, her mother's caretaking suddenly makes familiar, heartbreaking sense.

Rated R. 89 minutes.

Written and directed by Greta Gerwig.

Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, and Timothee Chalamet.

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© 2015 Rex J. Lindeman.   All rights reserved.   |   (760) 274-5948   |   rexlindeman@gmail.com

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