Thursday, January 18, 2018

LADY BIRD (2017)

Rated:  R

STARS:  Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges
DIRECTOR: Greta Gerwig
GENRE: Comedy/Drama

The gap between who we are and who we aspire to be never looms larger than during the waning days of high school, when we courageously decide to follow our dreams...or not. Lady Bird is a coming-of-age tale that almost aspires to be a musical--sort of a cross between Pretty In Pink and Glee

Lady Bird (the girl--whose real name is Christine), is on the cusp of graduation, and has ambitions beyond her local Sacramento area colleges, where her obsessive and controlling mom (Laurie Metcalf) wants her to go. The girl has set her sights on some prominent east coast schools, and the conflict this sets up between mother and daughter is at the heart of Greta Gerwig's impressive directorial debut. They have a complicated bond. They can be fighting one minute and the next going ga-ga together over a dress Christine is trying on. Lady Bird also has to contend with a snarky brother and his girlfriend, who provide some deadpan comic relief in the midst of tense situations. And then there's the issue of losing her virginity, which she seems determined to accomplish before moving onto "bigger" things. 

 Saoirse Ronan--in the title role--is the female Jesse Eisenberg. Forever young. I loved her in Brooklyn, where she assumed a more mature persona, and that was three years ago. Now, at twenty three, she's a high school kid and is so totally believable you'd think that yes, she is seventeen, if you didn't know better. She's already scored a win at the Golden Globes for this performance, and we can safely assume an Oscar nomination will follow. 

Laurie Metcalf, as the mom, deserves kudos as well. She's so goddamned irredeemable in her relentless criticism of her daughter--she's the character you love to hate. (You may have trouble deciding if you hate her or Christopher Plummer in All The Money In The World more!) But she's human after all, and that sets up the ending, which of course I won't give away.

Jon Brion's soundtrack is also worth mentioning. It's right on the mark in terms of bringing out the desired emotional effect of every scene. 

If you like a good coming-of-age story as I do (prolly cuz I'm still somewhere in the middle of that transformation), then Lady Bird won't disappoint.

 Grade:  B +  


Titles can be misleading. Two different friends asked me if Lady Bird was a biopic about Lady Bird Johnson. Far from it! The rebellious teenager in this flick is nothing like our 36th president's progeny Lynda Bird or Lucy Baines. It's a quirky film and one that reeks of originality. But you'd better be on your toes when you watch it. Those quick cuts and edits can sometime leave the viewer asking "What just happened?"

As a huge fan of Stephen Sondheim, I loved the first musical they put on at the very Catholic high school Lady Bird was attending. God bless Gerwig for letting the cast actually sing a lot of the score from "Merrily We Roll Along." ( It got my Broadway toes a'tapping.) There were moments of hilarity alongside moments of pathos. And every character evoked some kind of reaction. From the Mother Superior whose ability to take a joke was refreshing, to the priest aka drama coach whose past finally caught up with him. (I always assume priests don't have pasts!)

If I were to categorize Lady Bird, I'd call it this year's "sleeper." For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a sleeper becomes successful gradually, often with little promotion. Of course now that it's won two Golden Globes (Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy; and Best Perfomance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy), they will be promoting it like crazy!

It was hard for me to take Lady Bird's constant brattiness and her mom's unending negativity but high marks go to both Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf for their painfully real performances.

Grade: B