Quick Hit: Beautifully rendered and intensely edited, this is a wonderfully new coming of age story.
Fair warning for those like Shannon out there – this film is not an action packed film. It’s an intensely focused film on primarily one character and her struggle to grow up in a world that is surrounded with problems, both those that she understands and those that she doesn’t. It’s a film that tunes into what makes people tick, and for those that don’t like films like that, feel free to skip Lady Bird.
However, if you do skip it – you’ll miss an amazing undertaking, that simultaneously continues the thread of coming-of-age films while making it feel completely new.
The film, directed and written by Greta Gerwig, follows Lady Bird McPherson (Saorise Ronan) as she completes her senior year of high school. She attends a Catholic school and dreams of leaving Sacramento, losing her virginity, and doing something different than what she’s always done. She lives in a typical middle class family that is struggling to stay afloat. Lady Bird’s aspirations typically cause frictions with her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf). There’s also boys of course, which allows young Lucas Hedges (yes, he’s in another movie along with Three Billboards and Manchester by the Sea) and Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) to strut their stuff.
All of the different performers are really good. I don’t think that Lady Bird’s father, played by Tracy Letts, is getting enough credit on the review circuits. He’s amazing and always draws your attention despite only being in a few moments in the film. He, along with Ms. Ronan and Ms. Metcalf, take everything they are given and run with it, making a dialogue driven film a masterpiece of acting. Even the characters that are even bigger clichés, like Hedges and Chalamet, manage to bring a new flair to their moments.
I think this intense focus on the smaller moments and their impact goes back to the script, by Ms. Gerwig. This is never more evident than in the passive aggressive fight in the thrift store when Lady Bird and Marion are looking for a dress for Lady Bird’s prom. It’s a clinic in how to right a scene, and each punchline builds on the last. But always when we’re not expecting the comedy, Gerwig knows to drop an emotional escalation to keep the dialogue driven. And her use of side characters, like Stephen Henderson’s character as the drama coach, allow these moments to highlight different aspects of human nature – and she never shies away from the darker sides of that nature either.
That leads me to what I loved the most about the film – Gerwig’s unflinching camera on the middle class of America. It’s that focus on Larry’s depression, on Laurie’s desire and need to give her children a life that is better than what they have. It’s the idea of buying a starter home that becomes your only home after twenty years. And it’s dropping the small hints in that, and being both ashamed and proud of where you’re from. It comes out in almost every single frame in Lady Bird.
And it’s for those very reasons that I’m going to give it a “A-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"