REVIEW – “Lady Bird”
It’s hard to remove yourself from the post-festival hype for any of these indie dramas that are rumored to have Oscar potential. In the case of Lady Bird, which is indie darling Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, I can easily say that the hype is incredibly on-point for what is one of the most sincere, authentic, and wholesomely original coming-of-age films that I’ve seen in many years. The film follows rebellious and outspoken teenager Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) as she glides her way through the complexities of youth, financial problems, big dreams, and a complex relationship with her mother. This may sound too familiar to peak the interest of most, but writer/director Greta Gerwig has crafted one of the very best understandings and depictions of the messy nature of a teenage mind and their actions. From the beauty to the heartbreak to the disappointment to the moments of pure recklessness – Lady Bird is literally a perfect depiction of youth and the urge to follow your dreams.
A huge reason why this film works as well as it does is due to the brilliant screenplay at hand. Gerwig has proven her sensibilities for mumblecore, humanist films such as Frances Ha, Mistress America, or 20th Century Women when it comes to her performances on-screen – but with Lady Bird, she has proven her talents extend past her acting and into her directing and screenwriting styles as well. The dialogue here is so quick, witty, and authentic. There’s a genuinely natural quality to the way these characters operate and speak to one another, and it’s incredible to see how Gerwig manages to maintain these characters as likable even when they are at their lowest and most confused. One of my favorite qualities of independent filmmaking is that when you’re watching the best kinds of it, it can often feel as if you’re peeking into the lives of people opposed to watching actors perform in a film. Lady Bird absolutely has that quality to it from the first to last frame.
The beating heart of the film is within the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) and their endlessly complex love for one another. You go through many different stories and phases through Lady Bird’s life, as well as her relationships with her father (Tracy Letts), boyfriends, and school friends – but it always comes back to her mother. Out of any film that I’ve seen in recent memory, Lady Bird perfectly encapsulates the messiness of a mother/child relationship. There is always love there, but there is always a sense of misunderstanding. Metcalf and Ronan play off of each other wonderfully. By the end of the film, the relationship is so fully realized that I was moved nearly to tears. It’s hard to imagine anyone who went through a rebellious period as a teenager not finding this extremely relatable and hard-hitting.
Throughout all the dramatic elements of the film and the emotional core that is sure to resonate with just about anyone who watches – it’s amazing how light of a watch this can be, as it is easily one of the funniest films that I’ve seen this year. The way that Gerwig coasts from her dramatic elements to romantic elements to moments of pure hilarity are truly staggering, proving for her to be a resounding talent behind the camera. It’s because of all these emotions and tones that add up together that make for a genuinely compelling and authentic outlook on the everyday life of a teenager. Life is never just sad and it’s never just happy, it’s a little bit of both. This film is paced and structured in the same way that a teenagers life is. Throughout the ups and downs, laughs and heartache – Lady Bird is one of the very best films of the year and one of the very best coming-of-age films that I’ve seen in my lifetime. 5/5.