4 out of 5 Stars
Director: Greta Gerwig
Writer: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Odeya Rush, Kathryn Newton
Rated: R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying
Synopsis: Christine (Saoirse Ronan), a high school senior, prefers to be called “Lady Bird.” Christine and her mother, Marion (Laurie Matcalf), have their differences and bicker contagiously. Christine dreams of leaving California to go to college on the East Coast, a dream her mother tries to dismiss. In the meantime, Christine looks to improve her social standing and find a place amongst the cool kids at school.
Review: On paper “Lady Bird” doesn’t appear to be that extraordinary or unique. Christine’s coming-of-age journey is typical in an almost clichéd way, but the normality of Christine’s situation is part of the film’s charm. Saoirse Ronan offers a tremendous performance that presents Christine as a mix of confidence, fear, misconception and self-centered shortsightedness. Essentially she’s a typical teenager, but not exactly the typical teenager we’re used to seeing in movies. Christine’s parents have their own flaws as well. Her mother is overbearing and her father is loving, but something of a ghost that haunts their home.
The narrative follows Christine as she navigates the familiar path of high school. She’s not particularly sure who she is or what she wants to be, but her crush on a local musician forces her to step out of her normal routine and build up a false image of who she in and where she comes from. She’s more naïve that she could possibly admit and it doesn’t take long for the disappointments of reality to leave her questioning where she belongs in the world.
The film features a handful of epiphanies for Christine, but these are somewhat understated. This feels more realistic in the sense that the disillusion of a certain hope or belief isn’t confined to the exact moment when the lesson is learned. Our ideologies crumble bit by bit as the supports are pulled out from underneath them.
Greta Gerwig has already won us over as an actress, now she’s doing it again as a writer/director. Between the strong performances and the smart script, I suspect I’ll be talking about “Lady Bird” often as we head into award season.