Review | Lady Bird
|Release Date||November 5, 2017|
Lady Bird is a tumultuous coming of age story about a Sacramento high schooler (Saoirse Ronan) trying so very desperately to get away, to figure out who she is and what she wants to become, that she almost loses sight of everything important.
Who is Lady Bird?
Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is quirky, earnest, and touching, though she’s also not an easy pill to swallow. She hopelessly wants to get out of Sacramento, which she sees as utterly uncultured and backward. She desires to leave her Catholic school and go to amazing universities. Anything other than UC-Davis, which is where most of her friends will go. But her hope is aimless. “I hate California, I want to go to the east coast. I want to go where culture is, like New York, or Connecticut or New Hampshire.” Rather than have a true destination, all she wants is to be elsewhere.
So what does she do about it?
Just as her dreams for the future are a tad ethereal, so is Lady Bird’s identity. She’s unhappy with her home life, her house, and her friends. Throughout the film, she morphs her identity to fit whatever she deems to be a bit better. She changes friends, lies about her address, argues with her mother (Laurie Metcalf), joins the drama club, and dates boys (Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet – both of whom will make appearances this awards season). This last part isn’t a problem, except that she shifts interests with the boys. We all do things like this.
Lady Bird is each of us, at some point. We all went through that phase of life where we tried to figure out who we were, trying on new identities. The problem with that, as Lady Bird finds out, is that there are other people in the world, and inserting ourselves into different spheres of life means that we begin to affect other people.
Is Lady Bird just a typical coming of age story?
While there are many elements of the traditional coming of age story: sex, drugs, drinking, high school drama (literally and figuratively), Gerwig’s writing sets it apart from the rest of the pack. There’s a deep honesty here that resonates throughout each relationship within the film, particularly between the women. Lady Bird and her mother have a rocky relationship. Each one pulling on the other for dominance, neither giving ground along the way. As Lady Bird searches to find herself, she distances herself from her longtime best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) in favor of the more pretty, popular Jenna (Odeya Rush).
To me, one of the strongest comparisons is Drew Barrymore’s Whip It, starring Ellen Page and Kristen Wiig. It’s an amazing film that deserves a review unto itself, but rarely do we get a really strong, honest young woman’s coming of age story that doesn’t simply digress into straight-up rom-com territory. The same can be said of Lady Bird. She dates, yes, but it’s much more about her self-realization and growth than the guys she meets.
Any Oscar chatter about this film?
In terms of acting awards, Ronan has easily earned the eventual nomination she’ll receive, though she’ll need to battle Frances McDormand for it. After coming hot out of the gate for Atonement in 2007, then earning a nomination last year for Brooklyn, Ronan is quickly establishing herself as a quiet force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, Laurie Metcalf offers a particularly noteworthy performance; she’ll be a frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress, but probably fighting off Allison Janney from I, Tonya.
Greta Gerwig will almost surely be nominated for both writing and directing, but will probably lose out to Christopher Nolan for directing Dunkirk and Jordan Peele for writing Get Out, though I suspect they’re neck-and-neck there. How great is it that we’ve got a woman and an African-American man almost as locks for top Oscar slots?
Any final thoughts?
See this movie as soon as you can and enjoy it! Then watch Whip It, just because more people in the world should be watching Whip It!
Between Ronan and Metcalf’s performances, Greta Gerwig’s writing and direction, and its strong themes, I strongly recommend seeing Lady Bird. Just to underscore my point: as of writing this, it’s currently the highest rated film on Rotten Tomatoes of all time.
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