DIR/WRI: Greta Gerwig • PRO: Eli Bush, Evelyn O’Neill, Scott Rudin • DOP: Sam Levy • ED: Nick Houy • MUS: Jon Brion • DES: Chris Jones • CAST: Saoirse Ronan, Odeya Rush, Kathryn Newton
“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” – Joan Didion. This is the opening frame of Lady Bird and sets the tone of teenage angst and cynicism for an adult audience. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird is a touching coming-of-age drama loosely based on Gerwig’s own experiences of growing up. Set in Sacramento in 2002, Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson is a kooky, outspoken senior at Immaculate Heart High School. As the name suggests, it’s a Catholic school. Fortunately, Gerwig takes the moral high ground and doesn’t represent the Catholic school maliciously. Having said this, Lady Bird and her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) do snack on un-consecrated communion wafers. Lady Bird is a relatable character – she wants to be part of something, do something, move to New Hampshire to write in the woods. As long as it isn’t in her home town.
The crux of the film lies in the relationship between mother and daughter, Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, an actress known for her roles in television (Roseanne, The Big Bang Theory, Desperate Housewives). Lady Bird’s mother, Marion, has a complicated relationship with her daughter, leading to public arguments and Lady Bird throwing herself from a moving car. For both characters, winning a fight is shown to be the most important thing they’ll ever have to do, but so insignificant as to be completely forgotten when they find a pretty dress. Interactions like this one are a microcosm of adolescence. At that time, there is nothing more important, and you believe nothing ever will be. The film has a magical ability to make you laugh and break your heart at the same time.
Gerwig’s directorial debut welcomes you into a Sacramento adolescence that makes you cringe and laugh out loud. Saoirse Ronan is perfectly cast as the angsty teenager, complete with acne (shout out to the make-up department) and dyed red hair. It’s great to see a teenage character with acne for once. The score is composed by Jon Brion (Magnolia) with soft acoustic guitar and lilting flutes, reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine. The way the shots are composed is distinguished, the set design is gorgeous (wait until you see her bedroom). The film is like a love letter to her home town, Lady Bird, perhaps Gerwig too, hates Sacramento but loves it all the same.
It’s nice to see high energy in Ronan for a change, to contrast her controlled characters in Brooklyn, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. She can finally let loose in this role. I do worry Ronan won’t get the Oscar. Her performance is flawless, but there isn’t an ‘Oscar moment’ – that one scene where the actor gets to deliver a powerful, teary-eyed monologue. A coming of age film for grown-ups, I recommend Lady Bird wholeheartedly.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Lady Bird is released 23rd February 2018