Film Review: Lady Bird (2017)
Directed by: Greta Gerwig
Review by: Belle McIntyre
Its not all that surprising that Greta Gerwig, as writer and director of her first film would turn out something as quirky and original as Lady Bird. After all, she has brought her own unique imprint to all of her roles playing appealingly unconventional, yet relatable characters in a string of indie films. The beauty of this film is that we get the Gerwig mindset imbuing the whole film rather than just one character. And this really is a total charmer and a winner.
Saoirse Ronan was fantastically cast as the heroine, Lady Bird (née Christine), a free-spirited senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento. Lady Bird, as she insists on being called, much to the annoyance of her long-suffering mother (Laurie Metcalf) and depressed, out of work father (Tracy Letts) longs to get out of Sacramento, which she feels is stifling and provincial. She is desperate to go to the east coast, New York City in particular, but her family lacks the finances and her grades are not brilliant. She is chomping at the bit.
Her family life is pretty funky and a source of some embarrassment. Her modest house is literally on the wrong side of the tracks (as in right next to them). She has an adopted brother covered with piercings and his equally pierced girlfriend lives with them. He works in a dead-end low-level job. Her beleaguered mother works two shifts in a hospital to make ends meet and has to really pinch the pennies, much to the annoyance of Lady Bird, who is incredibly insensitive to everything but herself. In short, she is a typical teenager, who believes she is right about everything and no one else knows anything. She is so totally real. I know, because I was her. She also has chosen to wear her hair dyed with a fairly unattractive color of red.
The only bright thing in her life is when the headmistress suggests that she join the schools theatre group, which is enthusiastically directed by an avuncular priest. She proves to have some talent and begins to enjoy school and gets somewhat socialized. She finds an unlikely boyfriend from a very conventional upscale family who seems able to embrace Lady Bird and all her idiosyncrasies. Alas, the relationship ends sadly. Undaunted, she immediately finds a new beau, as polar opposite from the last as possible, and finally loses her virginity in one of the funniest scenes in the film.
The coda has her finally leaving home for New York and saying goodbye to her mother who has not spoken to her since she learned of what she considered a betrayal. The mother daughter battles are epic but interspersed with touching examples of genuine affection which has a hard time being expressed between these two equally stubborn characters. There is a reconciliation of sorts which improves the prognosis for the mother-daughter relationship.
It is really a very wise and authentic feeling film with Gerwig’s humanity and compassion for her characters shining through. They are all multidimensional, flawed and wonderfully real. It is a true delight.