By Brad Haynes
★★★ out of ★★★★
Coming-of-age films featuring awkward teenage girls are nothing new. From Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles (1984) to Hailee Steinfeld in The Edge of Seventeen (2016), it is a tale that has been told many times. But what makes Lady Bird, the directorial debut of the likable, quirky actress Greta Gerwig, so endearing is that it has such a unique voice and character in Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saorise Ronan). Additionally, the pairing of Ronan with actress Laurie Metcalf as her mother Marion is truly inspired casting.
Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks” in Sacramento, California, Lady Bird sees herself as far more extraordinary than her parents and those around her do. It’s not surprising then that she finds her extracurricular outlet at school in the drama club, where her eccentricities are not only allowed to shine, but encouraged.
It is there that she also encounters her first ill-fated romance with Danny (Lucas Hedges), a fellow thespian sorely mismatched with Lady Bird.
One of the film’s more unbelievable plot twists is Lady Bird’s desire to befriend one of “the popular girls,” all the while distancing herself from her best friend. It is through this new friendship that she is allowed the opportunity to pursue a relationship with bad boy Kyle (Timothée Chalamet).
At the heart of Lady Bird is Christine’s antagonistic yet loving relationship with her mother. Both Ronan and Metcalf spar winningly, making you believe that you are witnessing a real-life mother and daughter in action.
Gerwig, who tread the waters in screenwriting by co-writing two Noah Baumbach films, Frances Ha (2013) and Mistress America (2015), is in here element with this semi-autobiographical tale. Having grown up in Sacramento, also attending Catholic school there, Gerwig knows the territory implicitly. She is seemingly able to easily construct knowing scenes of genuine humor, warmth and pathos.
Lady Bird a small film, but like the film’s namesake, it has plenty of pluck. Don’t be surprised to see the film show up in several categories come awards season.
The Good: Greta Gerwig moves from winning actress to winning director/screenwriter by lending her unique vision to a film which expertly showcases the talents of actresses Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.
The Bad: It’s somewhat jarring when Lady Bird, and in effect screenwriter Gerwig, makes decisions that simply don’t fit the character.
Final Word: Lady Bird establishes Gerwig as a creative force to be reckoned with.
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges. Directed by Greta Gerwig.
Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
Rated R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying