Greta Gerwig made her solo directing debut with “Lady Bird,” and what a debut it is.
Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is the main character in the film. However, she refers to herself as Lady Bird and requests that everyone she knows call her by that name, too. The picture’s story follows Lady Bird through her senior year at a private Catholic high school and largely centers on the relationship between her and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf).
As her last year in high school unfolds, Lady Bird and Marion clash numerous times, both over their family’s finances and Lady Bird’s plans for college.
Gerwig, who also wrote the film, did outstanding work in crafting this coming of age story. The movie is top notch in its approach, because while it does slide into some familiar genre territory, Gerwig manages to give the piece its own uniqueness.
For example, the film delves into parts of Lady Bird’s life that have are similar to other flicks, such as high school romance, but the superb screenplay gives everything another layer of depth. Plus, there’s a great level of authenticity here, Lady Bird and her friends feel like real high school students and her parents are believable as people trying to get by despite being on hard times financially.
A lot of this is thanks to some excellent dialogue featured, which comes off as quite realistic. The sequences of Lady Bird arguing with her mother as well as her speaking with her friends is so relatable and understandable.
As a result, the human drama in this slice of life movie is quite effective, especially as Lady Bird is constantly evolving as a character and is growing up in front of the audience from start to finish.
Along with the high level writing, “Lady Bird” greatly benefits from award caliber acting. Ronan, who’s already been nominated for two Academy Awards, is just as good as expected here. Through her portrayal, Ronan displays a typical high schooler’s cynicism, but not overly so where it gets annoying, and she also presents heavy emotion, but not where it gets melodramatic. Everything about the character is kept at a relatively good balance and much of it is thanks to Ronan.
Metcalf, meanwhile, is superb as Lady Bird’s mother. It’s obvious that she loves her daughter dearly and wants what’s best for her, and Lady Bird does understand this fact, but because of their personalities, they often end up fighting. Metcalf does solid work in these moments, displaying her exhaustion from working extra shifts, the care she has for her daughter and her frustration at not getting through to her.
The cast is wonderfully rounded out by excellent performances, too, including Tracy Letts as Lady Bird’s dad, Beanie Feldstein as her best friend and Lucas Hedges as her boyfriend.
It should also be noted that “Lady Bird” is extremely funny. Again, the acting and writing come together to make for a fantastic product that can keep an audiences laughing throughout the flick.
Despite going through some of the familiar motions of a coming of age picture, the talent behind and in front of the camera really set it apart from others. This is an intelligent film about family, first loves and growing up, and all of this is portrayed in a very real, touching way. 4.9 out of 5.