Lady Bird


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Lady Bird
"Her honesty cuts through you like an Arctic storm"

Teenage is supposed to be a rites of passage, moving from one phrase of growing up to another until the safety of adulthood appears like a long road to nowhere. What is more scary, being 17 and hating your mother, or 37 and hating your life?

Greta Gerwig's semi-autobiographical memoir of teasing the teen monster in Sacramento, California, where nothing changes except Dad (Tracy Letts) loses his job and Mom (Laurie Metcalf) worries herself into a frenzy that everyone in the neighbourhood will judge them as trash. Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) is 17 and their only daughter who insists on being called by her made up name. She tells her first boyfriend that she lives on the wrong side of the tracks. She likes to shock. Being different blocks out the fear of not knowing what to do, or where to go. New York? She likes that. The art scene. Theatre. Reinvention on the East coast. Wow! She needs a scholarship to one of those fancy colleges where writers mature into homegrown legends, talking of The Great American Novel and going to underground clubs, partying with the A-crowd.

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The film is less about the wishing and more about the happening. Lady Bird drifts into high school drama. She has a fat friend with whom she confesses everything (almost) and then dumps her for a slimmer, richer model. She picks up guys by ignoring the easy over slo-mo technique for the wham bam take me, man, approach. She's clever but not subtle. She's a virgin who pretends to control the action from the top. She fights with her mother. She won't be told what to do. She loves her dad because he's soft and generous.

Have you been here before? Close, but not quite. Gerwig is known for her memorable performance in Frances Ha and other works with her partner Noah Baumbach. This is her first outing as a director and it can only be described as the high side of triumph. She avoids sentimentality and butterscotch banter. Her honesty cuts through you like an Arctic storm and she doesn't placate the feelgood saddos who are desperate for reassurance. Lady Bird's journey is pitted with disappointment and, like those adrift on the sea of knowledge, she changes her mind every five minutes.

Ronan was a sensitive flower in Brooklyn, an internal beauty of the Irish kind. Here she is the Californian misfit who doesn't care if she tells a friend, "Your mom's tits are fake." She is a force to be reckoned with and yet emotionally unprotected.

Metcalf is a revelation. Mother and daughter. Performances to cry for.

Reviewed on: 10 Feb 2018
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Teenage traumas in Sacramento, Cal, for 17-year-old Lady Bird who has love issues, sex issues, mom issues, when what she wants most is to be out of there, anywhere, especially New York because it's a long way away and packed with artistic promise.

Director: Greta Gerwig

Writer: Greta Gerwig

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Odeya Rush, Lois Smith

Year: 2017

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


New York 2017

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