Main Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf
Director: Greta Gergwig
So, coming of age. Also known as the scourge that is adolescence. There have been hundreds of movies made on the topic; enough that one might imagine that there need be no more. But coming of age changes as times change, and a really good script and cast can pull even my cynical heart strings. Way to go, Lady Bird, you got me.
Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird is the story of Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). Christine is a senior in high school, has pink hair, prefers to be called Lady Bird, and wants desperately to get out of Sacramento. She wants to go to college on the East Coast, and be the worldly woman she is absolutely convinced she already is. Her parents, and school, are not so sure.
Lady Bird has a lot of the usual contrivances of coming of age stories –the teenager who doesn’t fit in, the best friend that said teenager doesn’t appreciate, annoying parents (at least one, sometimes two), insufferable siblings. And angst, as usual primarily brought on by the teen herself. It might be clear to some of you by now that I am not a teen. I don’t have huge amounts of sympathy. Lady Bird aka Christine is kind of a dick.
However, I don’t think we’re supposed to love and sympathize with her every pang and plight. For every bump in the road she causes for herself, there’s another that catches her – and us – off guard. That’s when we feel the pain that is part and parcel of growing up. And we remember that just because we were all once adolescent dicks doesn’t mean that our feelings, like Lady Bird’s, weren’t sometimes legitimately crushed by our peers (also dicks). It’s that ability to make this frustrating teenager into our own young selves that makes Gerwig’s movie more than just standard coming of age fare. She nails it – clearly remembering what it’s like to be angsty and awful and confused and angry and vulnerable and wonderful all at the same time.
Gerwig also puts enough distance between her young character and herself to write adults who feel so real it’s a little scary. Laurie Metcalf plays Lady Bird’s mother and I have been on both the giving and receiving end of that person. As a parent it made me cringe a little, as an adult child it made me tear up a little. The scenes between teen and mother are exquisite.
Saorise Ronan as Lady Bird is solid. Not dazzling, as I expected, but very, very good. Her ups and downs are frustrating and endearing, exactly as they should be. She does what needs to be done with the character, but I think her Oscar nod for Best Actress was more recognition of a beautifully scripted character. Laurie Metcalf, on the other hand, is phenomenal. She was also given a golden script from which to work but her maternal character is so moving on so many levels, it was joyous – and heartbreaking – to watch her perform.
The other performances are terrific. Standouts include Tracey Letts as Lady Bird’s father, Lois Smith as a nun at her school, Lucas Hedges as her first boyfriend, and Jordan Rodrigues and Marielle Scott as her brother and sister-in-law. It takes a lot of quirky ingredients to make a coming of age movie interesting and these characters and actors do an admirable job of filling Lady Bird’s dance card. The film artfully avoids making any character all good or all bad – a rarity in this genre.
Overall, Lady Bird is a really touching movie about a pretty typical teenager going through some fairly average growing pains. Its five Oscar nominations (including one for Best Picture) are recognition that Greta Gerwig really tapped into something special between mother and child and Laurie Metcalf pulled that relationship together with a stunning performance. I can’t wait to see what this writer/director does next.
You can usually find Sue watching dysfunctional family indie dramas in order to make her own household seem normal. She is the Editorial Manager at Silver Beacon Marketing and an aspiring Crazy Cat Lady.