Lady Bird – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Greta Gerwig
Writer: Greta Gerwig
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts
Greta Gerwig was born and raised in Sacramento, California. While she has received many awards as an actor this is her debut as a director. For her topic she has stayed firmly within territory that she knows well, namely high school in Sacramento. In “Lady Bird” she has created a seventeen year old girl, Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who has many issues with Sacramento and with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Christine is not content with the world in which she finds herself. Her name Christine alienates her and she prefers to be called “Lady Bird”, a name which she has given herself as she explains “it’s given to me, by me”. It is her way of asserting some sort of independence. Her family is just about scraping by financially and her Dad, Larry McPherson (Tracy Letts), who is a gentle old duffer, stands in stark contrast to his wife the judgemental and quick to change her mind Marion. Although all of this takes place in Sacramento, Gerwig has stated that it is not autobiographical and in particular Lady Bird is a character whom she invented.
Lady Bird is unpredictable and trades in her best friend (Beanie Feldstein) for a more popular model (Odeya Rush) and there is also a change over in boy friends from the undemonstrative one (Lucas Hedges) who has his own issues to a more adventurous one (Timothée Chalamet). All this takes place against her determination to go to a university on the East Coast which her parents cannot afford. They want something more modest nearer to home. The authorities in the school are somewhat bemused by Lady Bird which becomes apparent in various interviews, the most delightful of which is between Lady Bird and Sister Sara (Lois Smith). However, even if Lady Bird gets her own way to a certain extent the leaving of Sacramento was not as straightforward and starry-eyed as she had hoped.
The strength of the film is to make what are common place, domestic issues such as mother and daughter friction, adolescent love affairs and parental financial pressures, topics of engrossing interest. This is some achievement by Greta Gerwig who uses humour judiciously throughout. In addition, wearing her directorial hat, Gerwig obtains a very high standard of acting from the entire cast. Each character is entirely credible. However, a great deal depends on Ronan as Lady Bird and she portrays the bundle of contradictions which comprise her personality as an entirely believable whole. Even though she is for a great deal of the time an infuriating, self-centred adolescent, somehow Ronan ensures that you remain on Lady Bird’s side.
This is a beautifully made film even if the themes which it investigates are familiar. The acting and the script make it a pleasure to watch.