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Lady Bird – Movie Review

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Lady Bird – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

The teenage coming-of-age film is a tried and true subgenre, with many spectacular entries over the years. Lady Bird might be one of the more autobiographical entries, with director/writer Greta Gerwig putting a lot of herself into the lead character Christine. Eventually, one stops figuring out where reality and fiction exist and merely enjoys the presence of everyone on screen and the story Gerwig wishes to tell. Lady Bird doesn’t re-write the rulebook and does become a bit more obvious as it plays on, but there is enough charm, solid humour and genuine human moments to make the entire film work quite nicely.

Even with Gerwig clearly basing the lead on herself, Saoirse Ronan has been given the freedom to interpret Christine how she sees fit. She feels like a real person, with her flaws as well as her good qualities and there is a decent amount to relate to there. The frustrations as she deals with her upbringing and class compared to others and trying to impress the boy she likes come through quite clearly in Ronan’s performance. She also shares solid chemistry with her mother. Laurie Metcalf embodies the hard working mother dealing with her emotionally charged teenager and trying to balance it all, thus creating the proper sympathy from the audience.

Even for those without Catholic school education, Gerwig creates a universality to the awkwardness of high school life and the growing pains that occur during that period. Gerwig clearly has admiration for her former teachers, although she provides some light ribbing at the Catholic school system, nonetheless. One of the biggest laughs comes out of a gym teacher playing substitute, even if one can see the gag coming a mile away. Beanie Feldstein provides further support as Christine’s best friend with a solid chemistry exhibited between the two of them. Gerwig also captures the early 2000s in subtle ways that makes one realise it wasn’t that long ago. Nonetheless, there is amusement from a time when not everyone had cellular telephones and Instagram had yet to be a part of teenagers’ lives.

The strongest parts of Lady Bird are in the first act, especially a brilliantly directed car scene with Ronan and Metcalf. Eventually, the screenplay starts to feel repetitive and obvious, as we get the expected beats of the coming-of-age genre. It’s still solid, but lacks the originality and spark of the earlier portions. Gerwig especially outstretches the ending. It’s clear what she was trying to say as she highlights how this is a mother-daughter story, but there was one scene that would have been a beautifully poignant note to end on and gotten the same message across. This is clearly a personal film for her, though, so it’s easy to let it slide.

Lady Bird may not rank among the great teenage coming-of-age films (and does slightly pale in comparison to last year’s similarly themed The Edge of Seventeen), but Greta Gerwig shows a sure hand as a director. She is in full command of this story and directs the cast, consisting of celebrated character actors and young stars, with confidence. One wishes the second half was as excellently handled as the beginning, but Gerwig nonetheless creates a winning and enjoyable experience. Most of the jokes land and the heartfelt scenes are earned. One awaits seeing more of her directing efforts and possibly more collaborations with Saoirse Ronan.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison