Lady Bird (2017)

Review #1,540

Director:  Greta Gerwig
Cast:  Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet
Plot:  In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California.

Genre:  Comedy / Drama
Awards:  Nom. for 5 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay
Runtime:  94 mins
Rating:  M18 (passed clean) for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying
International Sales:  A24
Singapore Distributor:  United International Pictures

"I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be."
"What if this is the best version?"

Oscar buzz has followed Lady Bird since its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, and quite rightly so in what is Greta Gerwig’s first solo feature outing as a writer-director.  She previously co-directed Nights and Weekends (2008), a movie much less well-received.  Lady Bird is the kind of American indie comedy with generous servings of pathos that elevates itself from the crowd.  It’s not necessarily one of the finest films of the year, but it is certainly a work that will resonate with most people, regardless of where they are from.  

In short, Gerwig has managed to locate the universal in the local in this heart-warming delight featuring Saoirse Ronan in a terrific performance.  Ronan, who first caught the eyes of cinephiles in her breakthrough part in Joe Wright’s Atonement (2007), has slowly but surely become one of the most gifted actresses of her generation.  It is a joy to see her in full flow in Lady Bird as she channels her teenage angst, confusion and spark into a character—Christine—at a transitory point in her life.

Set in Sacramento, California, Christine is a senior student of a Catholic high school, who like everyone else, tries to work hard so that she could apply for college, preferably somewhere outside of her hometown.  She has her first romance, a part in a school play, and a best friend.  She also has a mother who (like most mothers) is an indefatigable nagging machine.  

Laurie Metcalf shines in this maternal role, a case of showing love to a daughter like a woodpecker to a piece of wood.  Their fiery if also tender relational dynamic is what makes Gerwig’s film tick, among other aspects.  I hope Ronan and Metcalf win the Oscars for Best Leading and Best Supporting Actress respectively, but the frontrunners now seem to be Frances McDormand (for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and Allison Janney (for I, Tonya).  

In any case, Lady Bird largely entertains with an outstanding script, not least reminding us of the importance of family and friends, essentially the support system that made us who we are today, and who would champion us (in their own idiosyncratic ways) in the next phase of our lives.  Most of us have gone through that rite-of-passage in some form or another.  Which is why Lady Bird occasionally feels wistful, because we as audiences have also come of age.  

Verdict:  Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf shine in this generous, sincere if also wistful work from Greta Gerwig.





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