Review - 'Lady Bird'
Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird is a film that is abundantly more than the sum of its parts. On the surface, it's a charming drama with comedic flourishes, but it's also a touching commentary on the train-wreck of successes and failures that come to light during the transition to womanhood.
Lady Bird follows Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman struggling with the many ups and downs of adolescence. As she nears the end of her senoir year at a Catholic high school, she must figure out where she wants to go to college, make and break relationships with friends and boyfriends, and above all, weigh the importance of her relationship with her parents, specifically her mother.
Now I'll preface this review by saying that this clearly isn't a film that was made for me, or most men for that matter. Lady Bird focuses primarily on a young woman and the significance of her relationships with her friends and family during a time of great change. What makes this film so brilliant though is how well director Greta Gerwig is able to put her entire audience, including me, in the shoes of Lady Bird. I felt her emotions, I felt her struggles, and while I didn't quite relate to them, I understood and was grateful to experience this different perspective.
On the surface, Lady Bird is a seemingly simple, unassuming and pleasant film, but when you dig a little deeper you might discover that it's actually highly introspective and profound in ways that most other films aren't. It's so refreshing to watch a film that conveys big ideas through very small, human interactions and does so with honesty. There's a constant and somehow harmonious juxtaposition of ideas throughout this film. Gerwig shows great attention to detail in every scene, but also imbues that aesthetic with a free-wheeling spirit through which the characters are allowed to express themselves realistically.
Now, I don't know the writer/director Greta Gerwig, but the character of "Lady Bird" seems like she came straight from her heart. Saoirse Ronan is really maturing into one of the best young actresses out there, and her portrayal of "Lady Bird" might be her best performance yet. It's refreshing to see a character that is obviously flawed, yet endearing in ways that seem true to how someone of that gender and age might be in real life. Credit must also be given to Laurie Metcalf who plays Lady Bird's mother, Marion McPherson. She plays a mother with a firm hand who obviously loves her daughter very much, but has trouble expressing it. Lucas Hedges plays Danny, one of Lady Bird's boyfriends, and though he doesn't get much screen time, he makes the most of an interesting arch.
Bringing all of these parts into a cohesive whole is the cinematography by Sam Levy. Lady Bird is shot with warmth and light. Every scene, even the ones dealing with heavier themes have a certain glow to them and I always felt at-home in the environment. I also admired the licensed tracks throughout the film, and I won't spoil them here because their lyrical meanings sort of clue you in to what's happening during those specific scenes.
My one qualm with the film is its ending. For a movie that is so satisfying to watch, its conclusion is somewhat muted and disappointing in its abruptness. I would have appreciated a slightly more clear resolution versus the quick cut-to-black that had most of the audience members in the theater waiting for another scene that never came. I understand that this was Gerwig's intention, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it was slightly deflating for this particular viewer.
Abrupt ending aside, this is one of the best coming-of-age stories to grace cinemas in quite some time. If you had told me Greta Gerwig had only directed one film before this, I might have laughed in disbelief. Lady Bird is brought to life with a deft hand and wears its heart clearly on its sleeve, and though women might reap the emotional benefits of the film more than men, it's a movie that can be enjoyed and experienced by all.