Lady Bird (2017)
Lady Bird (2017)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.

Release Date: November 3rd, 2017 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Greta Gerwig Actors: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Odeya Rush, Beanie Feldstein, Tracy Letts, Lois Smith, Jordan Rodrigues, Laura Marano, Kathryn Newton

 


 

C

hristine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) rides home to Sacramento, California with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf), after having visited an in-state college. What starts as a tearful journey listening to a recording of “The Grapes of Wrath” ends with Lady Bird becoming so infuriated by her mother’s lack of support, her depressing preoccupation with financial difficulties, and her denunciation of Christine’s perceived poor work ethic (like her brother Miguel [Jordan Rodrigues], who only bags groceries despite having gone to Berkeley), that she throws herself out of the moving vehicle. Fortunately, she only ends up with a broken wrist.

Shortly thereafter, Lady Bird goes back to her Catholic high school routines, including running for a student council position, hanging out with her best friend Julie Steffans (Beanie Feldstein), and discovering the theater arts program – where she can costar in a play with Danny (Lucas Hedges), a boy with whom she’s immediately infatuated. She also spends her time rolling her eyes at the spoiled kid, Jenna Walton (Odeya Rush); speculating about sex; and worrying about applying for expensive colleges on the east coast, where she can discover real culture. Getting closer to Danny also gives her a first glimpse at a romantic relationship – even if it’s rushed and awkward.

“Lady Bird” mixes the bitterness of familial dysfunction (or, perhaps, just typical, constant, parent/child feuding) with the humor of teen angst and reckless misadventures. It’s partly a comedic coming-of-age tale along the lines of “Juno” or even “Napoleon Dynamite,” and partly a darker look at adolescence, channeling films like “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” or “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” Although the first half of the picture rambles along as if a slice-of-life exercise in struggling through the various blunders of one’s formative years, it quickly evolves into a much deeper examination of complex characters and intricate relationships, elaborated upon by Marion’s job at a psychiatric hospital.

A bit of a “Mean Girls” vibe arises as Lady Bird tries – momentarily – to fit in and pretend to be someone she’s not, while further uncomfortable milestones of growing up swing the mood back and forth between laugh-out-loud funny sequences and heartbreaking ones. A sex talk with her mom, actual intercourse, partying, failing to find common ground with her mother, and the prom are all topics that find humor hidden – sometimes quite subtly – amidst the anger and confusion and distaste for uncertainty and the future. “Lady Bird” manages to feel not only incredibly authentic – perhaps cringingly so – but also marginally profound, even as its scope stays strictly on the unprovocative, almost unsubstantial life of an average teenager.

Not so garden-variety, however, is the mother/daughter relationship at the heart of the story, which borders on antagonizing and exasperating. In many ways, their interactions exemplify the thin line between maturity and immaturity, intelligence and ignorance. Life experiences haven’t been enough for Marion to make sense of the taxing task of raising a child into adulthood, while Lady Bird musters an uncommon awareness about the situation – which most youths would never grasp. Marion is surely not intended to be an irredeemable villain here (Metcalf is extremely good in the role), but her actions are suspiciously objectionable, especially for someone with a background on psychological complications and development. This conflict might be partially autobiographical (written and directed by Greta Gerwig), but it mars an otherwise amusing yet brief survey of adolescence – a mere episode in a potentially grander existence.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10