Not your typical coming-of-age story, Lady Bird combines the minds of two young women to make a comedy true to life that makes you miss your mum.
Director: Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)
Starring: Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne), Tracy Letts (August: Osage County)
Runtime: 130 minutes
Australian Classification: MA15+
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 99% Fresh
Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) is starting to build the next chapter of her life: college. In Sacramento, California, she moves between circles while aspiring to live in wealth and amoungst full of artistic minds. But most of all, the best part of the film is Lady Bird’s wrestle of a relationship with her mother.
Struggling to come to terms with the financial and emotional fact that their daughter will soon move away to college, Lady Bird’s parents navigate the ‘leaving the nest’ period with just enough sensitivity and denial.
Put the minds of Saoirse Ronan and Greta Gerwig together and Lady Bird is what you get. A film that unfolds layer after layer, simply navigating life and makes you laugh at how complicated relationships – family, friends and lovers – are.
There is a definite sense of instilling the atmosphere of California and Sacramento is assigned a ‘vibe’ that Lady Bird, while hoping to escape, slots into. True to life, Lady Bird’s room is a reflection of her – a piece by piece narrative of her loves, hates and passions – which when painted over signifies era number two: college.
Coming several years after her outstanding performance in Brooklyn (2015), Saoirse Ronan delivers in embodying a teenager with guts, vulnerability, a need for rebellion and a need for affection. She is fierce.
Beside her, mother Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf) is aptly described as “scary and warm.” Although Lady Bird struggles to justify such a characterisation, it fits the bill to a tee. It is at this point that you start to miss your own mother: adventures at Vinnie’s with arguments in the change room, imaginary décor shopping and heart to hearts in the bathroom – a mother/daughter relationship we’re lucky enough to witness on screen.
Surely going in, Lady Bird was always going to be a comedy full of irony, but also full of heart. Her first encounters with boys provide some of the film’s most comedic segments – her awkwardness and ‘journey’ through the existence she wants to be full of excitement incite hearty laughs from audiences.
Kyle (Timothy Chalmalet) and Danny (Lucas Hedges) both push Lady Bird to grow, to fly and ground herself in pleasing only herself. While she searches for it, she is not validated by any of her romantic encounters. This solidifies this comedy-come-drama as one celebrating its female lead.
Gerwig proved she could make the weird wonderful in Frances Ha (2012), a black and white, modern comedy about young adult life. This time, as a director, she ventures into the teenage years to deconstruct the tenuous but loving mother-daughter relationship. Her joy is evident.
The illogical nature of making movies is appealing to me as well. It’s a reverse magic show… you’re taking all this stuff and you’re reducing it to flickering light, making it disappear into a dream. That feels satisfyingly strange – Greta Gerwig.
Lady Bird has brilliant one-liners, some cringe moments that sum up high school days and a whole lot of big-hearted dreams. High-school drama and finding yourself films are well-trodden stomping ground, but Gerwig sparks originality.
Ultimately this is how the film is built together. It is a round trip – from car audiobooks and arguments to a door slamming farewell handled with grace.