Lady Bird, 2017.
Written and Directed by Greta Gerwig.
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Odeya Rush, Kathryn Newton, Andy Buckley, Daniel Zovatto, Jordan Rodrigues, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Lois Smith.
In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California.
There’s a dirtied, muddied elegance to Greta Gerwig’s fantastically bold and personal debut Lady Bird, a coming-of-age story to the tune of Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River.” The character all appear real, the camera is unimposing, as if the audience are snooping upon arguments between mother and daughter, and the frenzied, frankly hysterical first sexual experience. Gerwig has managed to weave a tale at once incredibly personal, at once entirely universal in one broad stroke.
A spectacular Saoirse Ronan is Gerwig surrogate Catherine “Lady Bird” McPherson – Lady Bird her self-given name “given by me, to me,” – living in Sacramento, “the Midwest of California.” Her father Larry (Tracy Letts) is financially strung and suffering from depression, whilst her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf in a career best performance) balances a fine line between friend and foe with Lady Bird.
At school, she too treads the line between popular kid and anonymous inbetweener. Her best friend Julie (a delightful Beanie Feldstein) gives her the opportunity to break free of the tough shackles of Catholic school whilst her charming if vanilla boyfriend Danny (an again delightful Lucas Hedges) reels her back in.
The film hits all the major beats of coming-of-age stories: first boyfriends, losing your virginity (to a brilliantly pompous Timothée Chalamet – imagine Elio turned up to 11), attending your first major party, petty arguments with your best friend.
But these are all momentary footnotes. Gerwig very deliberately shifts focus towards Marion and Lady Bird’s fractious, if deeply heartfelt relationship. Where the film gravitates towards the larger stereotypical moments of teenage-hood, it’s at its most bold when dissecting the warring relationship of a mother/daughter.
Laurie Metcalf is wonderful as Marion, her hopeless, occasionally hopeful aspirations for her daughter a tragic reminder of what she had to conform to. Their relationship is never written in broad strokes, it’s neither bitter not sweet, somewhere between the two. An argument in a thrift store swings wildly from accusatory to loving upon Marion picking out a dress for Lady Bird.
Tracy Letts too is fantastic, his down-on-his-luck father battling with depression and a need to constantly have a smile on his face.
But it’s always Ronan. She has the gravitas of an actress far beyond her age. The confidence she exudes – she hopes to join the Mathletes but isn’t good enough “so far” as she so clearly announces – is matched by a rare fragility. A moment book noting her relationship with Marion is a stark reminder of a mother’s hopes for a daughter yearning for something different. “I want you to be the best version of yourself that you can be,” is followed by a stunning sad “what if this is the best version?”
A quick note on the use of Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River,” which is spectacular. The sort of moment that has you punching the air in giddy excitement.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★