Film: “Lady Bird”; Director: Greta Gerwig; Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein; Rating: ***1/2
This intriguingly titled film, with its coming-of-age tale, is the solo, directorial debut of Greta Gerwig.
It is an outstanding and warm teen drama that makes for a generous character study of a young woman in the process of working out who she is, what she wants and all the hazards that follow.
It is also an exuberant exercise in interlocking stories. But these interlock not in space and time, but in what is revealed and concealed; in the parallel world of social distinctions between the haves and the have nots.
The film revolves around Christine McPherson — a young teenage girl in the last year of high school. With the spirit of a free bird, she is defiant, ambitious and honest to herself. It is a slice of her life, an impulsive journey as she grows, matures and suffers love and desires.
As the film develops, it becomes apparent that as an act of defiance against her parents she prefers to call herself “Lady Bird” — a nickname “I have given myself, given to me by me”, she bluntly admits.
She lives with her family on the “wrong side of the tracks”. Feeling trapped in her hometown Sacramento in California, she dreams of going to a fancy college “where writers live in the woods” or in a big city like New York, even though her mother Marion does not agree.
How she negotiates her last year in school forms the crux of the tale.
The plot pivots around her relationships with her family which apart from her parents includes her brother and his girlfriend, her class mate Julie, her two boyfriends Danny and Kyle and Miss Walton, the school’s queen bee.
While Lady Bird is discovering herself — both intellectually and emotionally, her relationship with each and every one is not easy, but it provides the film with excellent dramatic moments.
The film is a mixed bag of emotions. To a certain extent, it feels like an autographical work of the director. Intimate and astutely crafted with undeniably complex and well-rounded characters, the film is a delight from beginning to end.
The protagonist, Christine is very relatable. She is a cocky and naughty teenager, but at times she is a mature, intelligent and creative girl. She is easy to identify with as we have all gone through adolescence, and we have all experienced the same frustrations that she is experiencing.
Saoirse Ronan is spectacular as Lady Bird. Despite being older, she plays the teenager perfectly, both in the most subtle scenes and in the most dramatic moments. As in real life, she strikes a perfect balance of drama, comedy, sex, frank talks, frustrated friendships and emotional interactions. It is shocking when she rebels against a counsellor during an absurd talk about abortion.
Laurie Metcalf as Christine’s mother Marion, is perfectly natural. Because of all her frustrations, she does not know how to handle her daughter and is always considered the “bad one”, in comparison to her husband. The way she expresses the different emotions that the character is going through is simply masterful.
Tracy Letts as Christine’s indulgent father has nothing much to offer. Lucas Hedges as Danny, Timothee Chalamet as Kyle, Beanie Feldstein as Julie, and veterans like Lois Smith as an understanding Nun, and August Wilson as specialist Stephen McKinley Henderson have their moments of onscreen glory.
The film is fast paced, emotionally honest, well-performed and intelligently structured.
By Troy Ribeiro