There’s been a lot of hype around a new film that is sweeping the nation, racking up critical acclaim and Oscar buzz as one of the best movies of the year. So naturally I wanted to take a look for myself. That film is A24’s “Lady Bird”, a coming-of-age drama that now holds the record for the most reviews while maintaining a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but is it really THAT good? I’m here to give you my opinion, which, spoiler alert, pretty much lines up with said reviews from other critics. Here is my take on the current cinematic and critical phenomenon “Lady Bird”.
“Lady Bird” follows a year in the life of high school senior Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan. Taking place in 2002, the film follows her life at home and at school in Sacramento, California as she butts heads with her parents, played by Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts, explores her sexuality and embraces a rebellious streak as she challenges authority and social norms of the time. Along the way she falls in love, neglects her best friend for more popular social circles, and experiences life changing moments all while dealing some very relatable struggles to find her place in the world around her.
“Lady Bird” is an extremely well done film. The writing is great, the shooting style is great, and the acting is phenomenal. This is the kind of movie I’ve waited all year to see and the beauty is it’s a very stripped down and simple movie at its core. The coming-of-age drama is one of the most famous film subgenres out there and despite the fact that we’ve seen many men and women come into their own in cinema “Lady Bird’s” story of rebellion and finding meaning in life at a young age feels real and genuine without being over the top and pretentious, almost like you’re seeing into a true life story brought to the big screen for our appreciation and understnding.
At the center of it all is Saoirse Ronan in a true star-making role as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson. Ronan is superb as the red-haired rebel who goes by her own given nickname to forsake the given name her parents bestowed on her. The nme itself is a symbol of her longing to escape the chains of her home life and Ronan’s performance of such a rebellious teen is filled with a fantastic mix of sincerity and subtlety. At times it’s hard to understand Lady Bird’s need to act out and at other times it’s very easy to see ourselves as young adults doing the same exact things this young girl does. Lady Bird wants so badly to be a rebel, but she also understands there are parts of her family within her she can’t avoid. She’s the perfect representation of a young adult who finds herself trapped in a bubble she wants so badly to escape without understanding the beauty within that bubble. Ronan truly captures the attitude and personality of a young teenager who wants to be different but somehow also the same as everyone around her. She’s extremely conflicted and it’s so beautiful to see this performance play out.
Ronan is supported by other small-name actors throughout the story, each playing important roles in her life. I enjoyed the use of lesser known names in the project because it allowed the story to play out without being bogged down by the reputation of bigger names. The most important relationship Lady Bird has is with her parents. While Lady Bird’s father, played by Tracy Letts, serves as the “favorite parent” who is softer on Lady Bird and willing to help her explore her rebellious tendencies to some extent, her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf, serves as the antithesis to everything Lady Bird wants to be. She lives a structured life, works overtime to pay the bills, and wants to see Lady Bird embrace a more simple, humble, and respectable existence that drives her daughter crazy despite their moments of bonding and love. It’s this relationship that proves to be the best aspect of the film overall as we see the mother and daughter clash and viewers really aren’t necessarily forced to choose a side. Both characters seem to be in the right as this film portrays not a battle of wits, but a pretty deep interpretation of family dynamics that everyone can relate to in real life. The interaction is smooth and natural giving the impression that both parties are stubborn and set in their ways and that there is room for them to learn from each other, which is the beauty of a true parent-child relationship after all. Hell I saw a lot of me and my own mother in Lady Bird’s relationship with her mom and I’m a guy…so that kind of speaks to how universally relatable this project tends to be.
The other part of the story is Lady Bird’s school and love lives where she dates two boys, who are drastically different from each other, and bonds with then neglects her best friend in favor of popularity. Again these are tropes we’ve seen in several similar films before “Lady Bird” but here they feel fresh and, again, more natural than forced. Nothing is overplayed or overdone and the romance and interactions are so casual and well thought out that its easy to appreciate as well as despise Lady Bird’s personal decisions as the movie progresses. Again though, these are decisions and mistakes almost everyone makes and this movie makes it very easy to see ourselves in its titular character in all the right ways. Every moment and relationship is significant to Lady Bird’s maturing and transformation in the same way these events shape each and every one of us in our own personal stories and no shift in her personality and priorities feels forced or out of left field. Every experience feels like an inevitability keeping a consistent tone and smooth pace every step of the way so as not to make any shift in Lady Bird’s social life feel unwarranted or unnatural. It’s this unexpected and strangely delightful attention to detail that makes “Lady Bird” shine because the movie know its doesn’t have to try too hard to get these events across to the viewers and have them mean something.
On a subtler note “Lady Bird” is also a commentary on society and cultural norms as well as the urge to embrace cynicism and rebellion over a perceived conformity to societal norms. This was my favorite aspect of the movie as Lady Bird represents the growth of a person, man or woman, as they explore the sins and joys of the worlds around them and slowly realize the things we want to escape and that we take for granted are actually worth holding on to the most. At times Lady Bird as a person, not the film, comes off as pretentious herself and the people she chooses to spend her time with show how her embrace of a more cynical mindset detracts from her more redeemable qualities of creativity and empathy, which we also get a glimpse of s the story progresses.
The film doesn’t just focus on Lady Bird’s transformation though. We see this same evolution in her family members and friends and even a lack of transformation in those people that all plays into the personal relationships Lady Bird chooses to support or reject. There’s one point where a friend comes out as gay and cries on Lady Bird’s shoulder and we see her go from hating the person, for reason I won’t spoil here, to supporting him because s much s Lady Bird wants to be an aggressive rebel she’s also a kind heart filled with understanding. One of my favorite parts of the film is when Lady Bird realizes someone she shared an intimate moment with is not who she thought they were despite the fact that the two share dark opinions on the status of the world. While the other character doesn’t change, Lady Bird does and she begins to laugh at herself for how she used to see the world as her cynicism becomes more ridiculous even to her. It’s these moments of character development that I personally saw as the most fascinating parts of the film without being too heavy-handed.
There are few movies that leave me feeling as satisfied and entertained as “Lady Bird” simply due to its ability to present relatable and culturally significant themes while avoiding an overwhelming sense of self importance. It’s one of the best films of 2017 by far with absolutely great direction by writer and director Greta Gerwig, who, being a female director, SHOULD be very knowledgeable of a young woman’s teen angst, and a star making performance by Saoirse Ronan being only the start of a long list of compliments this movie deserves. It’s simple, yet deep. It’s emotional, yet lighthearted. This is a film that doesn’t take itself seriously and almost ignores just how important and well made it is which allows its viewers to appreciate it in their own way. It’s the same quality that made 2016’s “Moonlight” such an amazing film as well. “Lady Bird” is mesmerizingly beautiful in almost every way and it’s no surprise that it’s gotten the reaction it has from critics and I’m glad to join them in adding to the praise. Movies like this don’t come around too often and when they do you can’t help but celebrate the fact that this is why movies were made, to explore sides of humanity and human nature that we can relate to ourselves as much as provide escape from the world around us. “Lady Bird” is not just a great film, it’s a work of art worthy of respect and admiration.