In her first solo effort as a director and writer, Greta Gerwig creates a somewhat auto-biographical story about a teenager going through her final year of high school in Sacramento, California, in 2002. Saoirse Ronan stars a Christine aka Lady Bird (the name she gave herself), as she goes through the motions of her final year of school, setting herself unrealistic goals of which east coast College she will attend. Like all teenagers, she often clashes with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf), who is focused on looking after her home, working to support her family and other ‘real world’ issues that Lady Bird pays no attention. Instead, she is busy thinking about the escaping Sacramento, daydreaming about the future and chasing after boys.
The strength of Lady Bird comes in the form of its performances, specifically from the lead Saoirse Ronan, who perfectly emulates what being a teenager, is like. She is a mixed bag of emotions and experiences, often changing between them in a fluid way that does not feel exaggerated. Everything about her feels genuine, from her demeanour to her appearance, Lady Bird’s skin has actual flaws and blemishes, like normal teenagers’ have. Ronan is not the only impressive teenager in the movie, with great performances from Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein and Timothée Chalamet; the latter’s character is so irritating that he becomes a stand out performance. These are all performances that can transport the viewer back to that weird and wonderful time of high school.
Laurie Metcalf is the other star of Lady Bird, as Marion, Lady Bird’s mother, who brings such emotion to the movie as a mother trying so hard to give her children a better life. The most important element to her performance and that of Tracy Letts, Lady Bird’s father Larry, is that it subverts the typical tropes used in Hollywood films regarding parents. Marion is not the nagging mother for the sake of additional drama; instead she is trying to keep everything together. Metcalf does this brilliantly during the scene when Lady Bird is sent home from school, calling out the often neglected selfish nature of teenagers.
Gerwig does something unique with Lady Bird, she tells the story from the perspective of Lady Bird, allowing for the audience to feel and see the story as she would. This can leave some gaps in the story but those gaps make sense, particularly when examining the concept that Lady Bird wouldn’t know or understand what was going on at the time. It also allows for more emotional scenes when she is able to see the world from outside her bubble. It is also why there feels like such a disconnect between Lady Bird and Marion, but at the same time there is a loving bond. Teenagers focus on the negative but can also see the kind things their parents do for them.
There are many things that contribute to making a truly great coming of age movie; it should be able to take place in almost any time period and any country, whilst also having elements that are relatable to people’s memories of being a teenager. Lady Bird can transport you back to that time. The fact that Lady Bird takes place in 2002 has little consequence on the story, say for some technology references and early post 9/11 commentary, you could put Lady Bird in the 70’s and still have a similar impact, even if it were pushed it into a more modern setting, the movie would still work. There are so many relatable characters and moments throughout Lady Bird that I am sure the audience will recognise, either in themselves or in people they knew growing up.
For a movie that is believed to be semi-biographical in nature there is a distinct lack of ego from Gerwig. It does not feel like Gerwig wants to tell her individual story, but add a stand out, beautiful coming of age tale to an over populated genre. For a first-time director, Gerwig has done a fantastic job assembling a great cast and telling a well-crafted tight film.
If you enjoy seeing well made coming of age stories told from a different perspective then you should check out Lady Bird.
Don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date with everything happening with Millennial Movies. Just put your email in the box below to subscribe. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.