Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“Lady Bird”– Movie Review


This past weekend at The 55th New York Film Festival, I attended a screening of the new comedy “Lady Bird”, written and directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan.


Facing high school graduation, can a young woman resolve the conflicts with her mother before going off to college?


In the Spring of 2002, the hideous memories of the events from September 11th of the previous year are still fresh in everyone’s mind – even for those who live 3,000 miles away in Sacramento, California.  That includes Christine (Ronan) and her parents (Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts), a working class family who struggle to scrape by month to month; Christine’s father Larry works as a computer programmer and her mother Marion is a nurse. While Larry and Marion focus on paying their family’s bills, Christine – who prefers to be called Lady Bird – is consumed with her future, which she hopes will be as an actress on the Broadway stage in New York City. 

Until that day comes, however, Lady Bird will do what your average high school senior in her situation would do – spend time with her friends, date young men and maybe even appear in a school play or two.  As far as her romantic life is concerned, she is a very sexually inexperienced girl; nothing would please Lady Bird more than to lose her virginity before starting college, but it would have to be with the right person.  Lady Bird believes that she has found just that young man in the form of Danny (Lucas Hedges), a fellow actor in one of her school plays – but after dating for a while, she suddenly learns that Danny is gay, so her hopes are dashed (for now, anyway). 

In the meantime, Lady Bird has her hands full at home.  It seems that she and Marion are always engaged in one long continuous fight.  Is one of them envious of the other or do they feel as though they are in competition with each other?  Both could be true.  Complicating matters is the fact that Lady Bird has made it known that the colleges to which she has applied are all out of town – mostly in the east and especially in New York.  This only serves to further upset Marion, partly because she knows deep down that she would miss her daughter, partly because she fears for her safety in New York and partly because of the expense – which becomes of particular concern when Larry loses his job.  As the two battle up to the bitter end, will Lady Bird be able to patch up things with her mother before leaving for college?


With “Lady Bird”, Greta Gerwig makes her directorial debut – and she’s off to a fine start.  This is a good first step for a woman who is clearly (and unsurprisingly) multi-talented.  “Lady Bird” is a safe choice for a rookie director in that it is short, comedic and semi-autobiographical; Gerwig was smart to not try to be overly ambitious her first time out.  Perhaps later in her development as a director, she will attempt something a bit more challenging.  But for now, she has made some good shot choices and served both her cast and script well.  Whatever she does next should be a real doozy.   

Saoirse Ronan is playing a vastly different character than she did in “Brooklyn”, which appeared at this festival two years ago – but a character that is nonetheless just as charming and adorable.  The difference here is that her Christine is also bratty and self-centered.  At 23, Ronan’s youthful looks allow her the opportunity to  get away with playing a 17 year old girl, but she makes it believable. Ronan and Gerwig are both making the most of their opportunities and their talent, so it is especially exciting to see these two women team up on a movie.      

Following the screening, there was a question and answer session with Gerwig and some of the cast.  Originally, Gerwig wrote this screenplay back in 2013; the first draft wound up something like 300 pages in length.  When Gerwig picked it up again, she was able to substantially pare it down.  The original title was “Mothers & Daughters”, which makes sense, since Gerwig characterizes this as a mother-daughter love story.  As a director, Gerwig says that she tries to keep a “magic bubble” around the actors, allowing them to be independent without a feeling that they constantly have to check-in with the director regarding their acting choices.    

Lady Bird (2017) on IMDb

No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak Your Piece, Beeyotch!