Reviewed by: Ryan McLelland

I had gone to see a movie with my friend. We were walking into our theater when she pointed out a standee, “I heard this movie is good. I really want to see it.” I looked at the standee for this movie called Lady Bird and my eyes were drawn to “Written and Directed by Greta Gerwig.” I’m not too familiar with Gerwig’s work but my thoughts went back to a film I saw last year called Maggie’s Plan. I hated that movie and I hated Greta Gerwig in it. Did not like her acting style at all. So I said to my friend, “I may be skipping that one.”

The reviews came out for Lady Bird and they were stellar across the board. Was I going to now miss a movie that is well acclaimed because I didn’t like an actress I’ve only seen in one movie? Then my friend who wanted to see the movie saw it and said that it really is a movie for women, especially as it explores the relationship between a mother and a daughter. I was puzzled by that statement and actually think the exact opposite. A well made movie can bring you into someone’s world. I may never be an astronaut but can enjoy a movie set in space like The Right Stuff, Gravity, or Star Trek. If a story is told well then it should be able to draw you in regardless of the subject matter. If you aren’t a seventeen year old girl, a well made movie should be able to show you what it is like to be one. So I decided at that point I had to see Lady Bird. Turned out to be a great decision.

Saoirse Ronan stars as Christine McPherson who refuses to go by Christine. She has chosen the name Lady Bird and wants everyone to call her by that name. Her parents Marion and Larry (Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts) try to indulge this though Marion seems to have a bit more trouble going with her daughter’s wishes. Marion is a very headstrong woman. She’s a bit tough, overbearing, but works really hard to support her family. She’s your typical passive aggressive mother who may not be able to connect completely with her daughter but loves her all the same even if showing her love is tough. “Showing that love” may be the wrong terminology. She absolutely loves her daughter but she just wants Christine to want more out of life. Marion and Larry are working very hard to put Christine through a Catholic school so she may do better in life post college. But Lady Bird is not meeting Marion’s expectations and it really upsets her.

At school Lady Bird really only has one friend in Julie (Beanie Feldstein). Lady Bird isn’t picked on. If anything, Lady Bird and Julie are more invisible to her way more popular classmates. Lady Bird is having an identity struggle in her senior year. She wants to go to school out of state even though she knows her cash-strapped parents could never afford it. She wants to hook up with cute guys. She wants to possibly hang out with cooler kids. She really wants to do her own thing. The best thing about this movie? It doesn’t have to give a crapload of exposition. Lady Bird isn’t like, “Gee I really want to hook up with this boy and hang with the cool kids and do all this stuff senior year.” The storytelling here is perfect and Lady Bird’s life unfolds just as a normal teen’s life is told. I would think in a movie like this there would be some sort of narration getting inside Lady Bird’s head. Something like that would have completely ruined this film. Instead we just see Lady Bird’s struggles and successes play out onscreen. Because of this the film is absolutely perfect.

Lady Bird goes on with school, trying her best to get the grades that will land her a better school. She meets theater geek Danny (Lucas Hedges) and cool guitarist Kyle (Timothée Chalamet). She hangs out with cool girl Jenna (Odeya Rush) who seems a bit daft but may be smarter than everyone thinks. You see Lady Bird fall in love. You see her make bad decisions. You see her argue and fight with her mother. You see Lady Bird go through the trials and tribulations that every young person goes through in their senior year of high school.

If I had to describe Lady Bird using other films I would say it is a mix of Napoleon Dynamite and Rushmore – but a bit more serious and with much more heart. It reminded of 2015’s The Duff in spirit only. The Duff dealt with similar themes as Lady Bird but had a bit more of an unrealistic plot. I think Lady Bird is a great look at a young woman and what she has to go through in school, her social circles, and her family life. Lady Bird is awkward and a bit weird but she doesn’t really notice or care. She is who she is and she is completely unapologetic. She’s street smart without being someone who is getting straight A’s in every class.

Saoirse Ronan is captivating and breathtaking as Lady Bird. It would be a career making role for any other young actress but Ronan, at 24, has already been nominated twice for an Academy Award (the first when she was 13). Ronan acts her ass of here and she really sells this movie. She is FANTASTIC. Watching this film you couldn’t help notice how much Ronan put into the role. The best scenes were always the ones with Ronan and Metcalf interacting. At no time did it feel like two actors in a movie. It felt like you were watching a mother and daughter laughing, arguing, and fighting.

Laurie Metcalf is stunning as Lady Bird’s mother. Metcalf has had a long seasoned career as an actor but this role will always be the one she is remembered for. I believe both Ronan and Metcalf will be recognized for their performances but Metcalf really brought depth and emotion to the mother who is just trying to do the best for her family even though her young daughter doesn’t recognize what she’s going through to do so. Yes she is overbearing, but what parent isn’t at that age? I think Ronan and Metcalf are a lock for awards season but I will not be surprised if Metcalf wins every award for this performance.

As the credits came up at the beginning of the film I saw the name Beanie Feldstein and thought to myself, “Hey. That’s a great name. Beanie.” I wanted casting agents to cast her in movies just so I could see her name. Then, as I saw an actress pop up on screen, I thought to myself, “You know what? I bet that is Beanie Feldstein. You know what? I BET that is Jonah Hill’s sister.” When I came home and IMDB’d her I found I was correct: Beanie is Jonah’s young sister. Beanie was a sweetheart as Lady Bird’s best friend. She’s a slightly overweight girl who seems to love life and loves her best friend. There is a lot going on in Beanie’s head and we know that she is not truly happy inside though she does her best to mask this. It’s a great performance from Feldstein but also, once again, a testament to Gerwig’s screenplay.

I guess this leads me to Greta Gerwig. I can admit that I didn’t like her as an actress in that movie I saw her in. But this script? Incredible. Her direction? Astonishing. Gerwig has co-written and co-directed films before so it isn’t like she lacks experience. Lady Bird appears to be her first film having a go at it alone. The results blew me away. This may be the most well crafted look at high school life I’ve ever seen. I can say this having never went to Catholic school nor having never been a seventeen year old girl. The movie is so damn good that everything up onscreen just feels wonderful. The screenplay tells a story, the actors help tell that story, but the film is also able to tell a story beyond the lines the screenplay had the actors say. I was sad that the movie finally ended. I could have watched six more hours of Lady Bird’s story.

This film is perfect from beginning to end and is currently my favorite film for 2017. It’ll be a hard film to beat. Gerwig and Ronan did such an amazing job. Laurie Metcalf’s knocked it way out of the park. I’m sure Lady Bird will be a film that is watched over and over again for many years to come.


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