Lady Bird (2017)
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Not everyone will enjoy this film as it's just not for everyone. Where Lady Bird stands out and why I believe it warrants 10 stars is that it mentally transports you to Lady Bird's world. You forget you're watching a movie because everything is done so well. I found myself feeling as though I was in the same room with the characters in this movie.
This is why we watch movies- to mentally go outside of our living rooms. Lady Bird achieves this. Best movie I've seen in a while.
Saoirse Ronan is excellent as Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson - a nickname she gives herself to appear distinctive. I am sympathetic to the aspirations of a young, self- involved teenager searching for a path to glamour and excitement. Youth is an innocent time - one open to endless fantasies - reality has not yet penetrated the hermetic world of dreams. The "firsts" of the teen years - first kiss, first sexual experience leading to the loss of virginity, first self-awareness of one's own ethical and moral values, and the critical realization that the world is not always spinning for you alone - solely for your personal gratification.
The film opens with Lady Bird and her mother - a wonderful performance by Laurie Metcalf - who is driving and listening to Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath on audio tape - both simultaneously weeping, moved by the beauty of the spoken words; their mirrored responses reflect their enduring affection. And suddenly the mood is shattered and we see the other side of their relationship - a mother who works double shifts as a psychiatric nurse to supplement the family income so that her daughter can go to a private Catholic school; the burden of monetary expenses weighs heavily on her shoulders. The ever-present resentment that comes with sacrifice is often unleashed on her oblivious daughter in a torrent of sarcasm, humiliation, and disparagement.
Greta Gerwig is at her best in the scenes between mother/father and daughter. A lovely tenderness exists which is often choked and stifled by the exigencies of financial straits.The underpinnings are there for a truly fine movie, but in the rush to cast a wide net, Gerwig compromises her subjects' humanity, placing a veil of bromides over what could have been profound interactions. Maybe next time. I hope so.
In the titular role, Saoirse Ronan stars as Christine McPherson, a rebellious seventeen year-old who dyes her hair pink, eats communion wafers like snacks and insists that everyone call her Lady Bird. Living in the anaemic suburbs of Sacramento, California (as characterised by an opening quote from Joan Didion), the film follows Christine as she navigates her last year at a Catholic high school from shifting friendships, first loves and, of course, prom.
Despite containing all the requisite elements, calling Lady Bird a coming of age story feels reductive as the film ruminates on parenthood just as much as it does on adolescence. Christine's strained relationship with her mother is an integral part of the story and the depth afforded to her parents ensure they are not simply ancillaries to Christine's own personal growth.
Her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), struggles to accept Christine for who she is, juggling her responsibilities as a mother with her willingness to provide unconditional love. She tells her daughter, "I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be", to which Christine replies, "What if this is the best version?"
On the other hand, Christine's relationship with her father, Larry (Tracy Letts), is less tempestuous but marked by a brewing sadness. Having recently lost his job and struggling with depression, Larry has to come to terms with the fact that his daughter will soon move out to go to college. The poignant scene the two share together on Christine's eighteenth birthday is pronounced by the mutual understanding that the transition into adulthood means letting go.
The film is remarkably well balanced in its depictions of both sides of the coming-of age narrative. The trials and tribulations experienced by both Christine and her parents' is why Lady Bird will likely feel relatable to audiences of all ages. Even so, Gerwig has stated that she wrote the character of Lady Bird as the opposite to how she was in high school. Perhaps then, Lady Bird feels relatable, as through Christine she has crafted a character for the rebellious, non-conformist streak within all of us.
"Lady Bird", the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, features one such teen who thinks she knows it all. Looking and acting for all the world like a 15 year old (something that Margot Robbie really can't pull off in "I, Tonya") Saoirse Ronan plays Christine McPherson who has the given name ("I gave the name to myself") of 'Lady Bird'. She is struggling with a lot of issues: an unreasonable and overbearing (parents: read 'perfectly reasonably but firm') mother (Laurie Metcalf, "Roseanne"); the issues of puberty and young love; the constrictions of a Catholic school she despises; and her inability to perform to the grades she needs to get into a college of her choice. That choice being on the East coast as far away from the backwater of Sacremento ("the mid-west of California" - LoL) as she can get.
Love comes in the form of two serial male fixations: the gorgeous and artistic Danny (Lucas Hedges, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri", "Manchester By The Sea") and the aloof and enigmatic Kyle (Timothée Chalamet, "Call Me By Your Name").
This is a near perfect coming of age film. The plot, while fairly superficial and covering ground well-trodden before, fully engages you and makes the running time just fly by. And there is just so much talent on show. The script by Gerwig is chocker-block full of great and memorable lines; Ronan is pitch-perfect as the irascible and cock-sure teen; Tracy Letts ("The Post") is magnificent in the less showy role as the "good cop" dad, struggling invisibly with his own demons; and Metcalf gives an Oscar-nominated performance that really should give Alison Janney a run for her money... a drive away from an airport conveys just perfectly every college-age parent's emotional low-point.
Where perhaps the film overplays its hand a bit is in the "wrong side of the tracks" line. The household while struggling is by no means trailer-park poor (compare and contrast with "I, Tonya"): perhaps this is the depths of financial desperation found in Sacremento? But I doubt it... there still seems to be money available for fancy cowgirl outfits.
Which leads me to the rating, which seems to have been a common rant in the last few weeks. I would have thought that there was nothing like this film to turn the mirror of reasonableness on a young teen, perhaps helping them to treat their parents better, work harder for college or make better choices. Yet it has a UK 15 certificate. And for what? There is a full frontal male photo-spread in "Playgirl" (I want to say "it's a penis, get over it", but if forced I would have frankly just snipped the 50 milliseconds out to get the lower rating). And there are a few (only a few) F- and C- words. I have the same problem here as with "Phantom Thread" - here is a high-class film that a young teen audience would absolutely love to see. I think the BBFC have got it wrong again here.
I cannot recommend this film enough: a tale of teenage life love and resolution that is hard to beat. Possibly one of the best coming of age tales I've ever seen. On the basis that it looks like I will never get to see "Call Me By Your Name" - the only major one I've missed - before this Sunday's Oscar ceremony, what a great way to round off my Oscar-viewing season.
There are lots of coming of age movies, and this is one of the few I've seen in recent times that really did seem to have something new and interesting to say and show. Maybe some of these related to 'first world problems' or perhaps more accurately 'poor people's problems when looking at rich people' but the complexity and reality I found in the issues raised and the way they were addressed did not detract.
There are many commentaries about relationships, social settings and societal change relevant to the 2002 setting in this film, which I recall clearly as our elder daughter was in the transition from primary to high school around that time.
At times, it isn't easy watching; at times it's really funny and mostly it's encouraging and uplifting. If you have been through that transition from high school to university, employment, or whatever came next for you, I think you'll find something that resonates in this fine film.
Lady Bird centers around a teenager, Christine Mcpherson, named christine by her parents hut prefers to be addressed as Lady Bird. Her father working in a company which is constantly laying off many employees, her mother is working rigorously to make her ends meet. Her brother is working in a mall and lives with her girlfriend. Lady bird constantly feels that she is superior than most, feels ashamed of financial status of her family. Her mother constantly keeps telling her that she's ungrateful and ignorant about plight of her family. She constantly feels she's destined for bigger things and her background, surroundings keep pulling her down.
She finds a cute boy who happens to be very rich, he turns out to be gay who hasn't come out of closet yet. She then starts hanging out with a popular girl, distancing her best friend in process. She meets kyle who talks about utopian concepts of having no money, having exotic dreams etc. She ends up losing her virginity to him, which is obviously a big deal for her, however her first time is quite underwhelming, she also finds out that kyle lied about being virgin. She quickly realizes that life which she always found intriguing isn't all what it seems, all that glittered wasn't gold. And she realizes who're really important for her, who'll stand by her in the real tough times, why she should embrace her family.
As it goes in hindi,
Khaya piya aish kiya!
However above line could not be farther from the truth, just because of sheer treatment of the film, because every character looks like people you know, you can see Mrs Mcpherson in nagging mother of your friend, you can see a kyle in your newsfeed having a DSLR camera, not once this film gets melodramatic, you can believe that this things are said/done by real people, some of the scenes, moments stay with you even after a week and you ponder over it. (I watched it 10-12 days back)
This film does leaves you yearning why does not hindi cinema make such films, why does a person need to relate with a girl in sacramento, why does a person needs to draw parallels between middle class in third world country and white trash in USA?
India have had some attempts but most compromise on genuineness in exchange of melodrama!
Firstly, the script was amazing. The dialogue between the characters was very flowing and felt very real. I felt invested in the characters and the situations they were going through because the script showed them as honest human beings. When a film does that, you know its good.
Secondly, the acting. The acting was so honest and down to earth that the characters became even more developed and towards the end I began to feel for them. They really sold the comic moments and the felling of growing up and discovering yourself.
Finally, the cinematography. While I was watching this I didn't pay too much the the cinematography, partly because I was more invested in the story, but upon thinking about it, it was beautiful. I was shot in a way that kept the audience interested for its whole run time and at no point was I thinking about anything else.
Overall, this film will go down as one of my favourites for being real, heart felt and beautiful.
It is also uncommon - but again a pleasure - to have a leading role in a film with a decent budget taken by a young actress. Here Irish Saoirse Ronan plays the eponymous 17 year old American senior year high school student in this coming-of-age story. We first saw Ronan in "Atonement" but she has since proved to be an outstanding talent in work such as "Hanna" and "Brooklyn".
"Lady Bird" is clearly semi-autobiographical territory for Gerwig: the central character's real name is Christine (the name of Gerwig's mother); the narrative is set in the early 2000s when Gerwig herself was a teenager; and, like Christine, Gerwig went to a Catholic high school in Sacramento before studying at a liberal arts college in New York City.
But Gerwig does not romantise her central character who has acne and a poor hair dye and exhibits selfishness and anger as well as charm and humour in a narrative that is at turns poignant and funny but always engaging. Although the focus is on one girl in one year, the supporting characters - notably Lady Bird's parents and four friends (two girls and two boys) - are well-cast with Laura Metcalf especially impressive as the hard-pressed mother. In short, a rare treat of a movie which, at just 93 minutes, never overstays its warm welcome.
Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Ronan) is a senior student in a Catholic high school, the film roughly covers her last year before starting her tertiary education, "Lady Bird", a named given to her by herself, has a headstrong streak written in her genes, like gazillions of other pubescent spirits peopled around our globe, she revolts against her quibbling mother Marion (Metcalf), and at the same time, desperately seeks for the latter's validation, she wants her mother to like her (as a person), not just love her (because she is her daughter), a sagacious point poignantly reverberates with audience in its universality and intimacy, and the truth is, there are many such sensible touches populated in Gerwig's stimulating script, which can be partially accounted for LADY BIRD's runaway success, because empathy and amenity are like ambrosia, really as scarce as hen's teeth under the designation of "chick flick".
Lady Bird embraces the "me against the whole world" scenario with brio and chutzpah, throwing back talk both at home and at school in order to snatch the evanescent one-upmanship, and makes erroneous choices in her romantic quests, both Danny (Hedges, unexpectedly versatile in projecting a tenderness that is contrarian to his braggadocious Oscar-nominated turn in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA 2016) and Kyle (Chalalmet, what a killjoy!) are anticlimactic episodes, the one with whom she attends the high school prom is actually her best friend Julie (Steffans), romance is transitory, but friends are for life, another lesson learned after her inept hobnobbing with the popular (yet vacuous) gal Jenna (Rush) in order to catch the attention of the cool boy Kyle.
All in all, the most intense bond is of course, the familial one, on her pursuance of severing the umbilical cord, Lady Bird eventually comes to terms with her christened name, her modest, imperfect family, her benevolent and supportive father Larry (a heartwarming Letts) is laid off and has been combating depression for a long time; her double-shift engaged nurse mother Marion's constant nitpicking just mirrors her own apprehension that she couldn't help her daughter to become the best version of herself in spite of the fact that she has maxed herself out. TV and stage veteran Laurie Metcalf is given a rare opportunity to shine on the bigger screen to epitomizes an ordinary mother's broader spectrum of parenting angst and she kills it, not just in that tear-jerking car-roving moment.
Time and again, Saoirse Ronan vanishingly conceals her ethnic traits and flawlessly transmogrifies herself as a flawed American teenager in this Bildungsroman, a fiery but sensitive, opinionated yet good-natured girl who only finds what home and family means when she finally flutters away on her own. Greta Gerwig's LADY BIRD is a rewarding, uplifting and funny passion project equipped with heart, brain and felicity, one simply hope these fantastic characters will be kept in Gerwig's next directorial outing, as we are compelled to wonder what will happen next to the extraordinary Lady Bird and her family.
But it's not just Ronan's performance that makes this the movie it is. It's the triangular relationship between her (a disillusioned small town girl from Sacramento who dreams of the creativity and urban rawness of East Coast New York) her driven, ambitious (for her daughter) and seemingly hard-hearted, unemotional mother (Laurie Metcalfe) and her long-suffering, delightful father (Tracy Letts).
How the three deal with one another and how those relationships play out are at the heart of a movie that touches the heart-strings many times.
Take a hankie.
It's not damning Greta Gerwig's directorial debut with faint praise by describing it as nice because it really is, in the finest tradition of the word, a truly nice cinematic experience. It has grit, humour and emotion, but the overwhelming take out is just how 'nice' it is.
The first act is hilarious in which 'Lady Bird', the given name (given to herself) of Christine, her best friend Julie and her first boyfriends enact small time life, love and prom-going.
The setting, in an all girls' Catholic High School, lends itself to much hilarity, with some excellently original rebellion. My favourite scene is where 'Lady Bird' and Julie scoff a tub of communion wafers whilst talking about sex. ("It's OK. They're not consecrated.")
Although the gradual sexual fulfilment that Lady Bird experiences is nothing new Ronan's performance keeps you interested, and when the consequences lead to confrontations and discussions between her and her parents - rarely acted out as a three hander because Mum and Dad lead separate (although still loving) lives - the movie reveals its depth.
It's the relationship between mother and daughter that is the real dramatic grit in thi particular oyster. Here Gerwig teases out brilliance by both actors and it's the result of this difficult 'ambitious-mom' tension that drives the movie.
As the film reaches its climax how that plays out is what results in the handkerchief moments and leaves you emotionally satisfied in a movie that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Christine has re-dubbed herself "Lady Bird" and is going to a Catholic High School and is going through all the usual growing pains. Grewig has made a name for herself with her quirky characters and there's more than a bit of that to wade through here. It takes some time to get past the notion that Ronan is giving her own performance here and not just doing a Greta act (similar to many a Woody Allen lead performance by 'substitute' Woodys). As fiercely individualistic as Gerwig is as an actress, Ronan gives Lady Bird a bit of a softer and more vulnerable side that is more effective than if Gerwig had performed it herself. Kudos to her for embracing it.
Most importantly, Gerwig does an excellent job at keeping the movie rolling along at a brisk 93 minutes, with some scenes being literally seconds long - nothing self-indulgent here (although there is a scene or two that could have been allowed to breathe a bit). The cast, including several young actors is uniformly fine. Laurie Metcalf as her tough mother could have used a little leavening. As written and performed, she comes off a bigger harridan than is what was likely intended. Some of the offbeat mumblecore touches stick out as unnecessary, but, what separates LADY BIRD from so many of them (including, frankly, a number of Gerwig's movies), is that there is genuine heart and compassion here, not just ironic detachment. Further grounding things is a keen appreciation of middle class life with the scenes of shopping at thrift stores, window browsing for homes they can't afford etc. - or, as Lady Bird sardonically refers to it: "Coming from the wrong side of the tracks." Credit, too, for not ending in the conventionally expected way. Just a warm sigh.
The biggest accomplishment and positive in the film is the directing by Greta Gerwig, which for a first time directing is an outstanding achievement. You honestly would not be able to tell if this was directing by an all time great or a newcomer. She has done an amazing job directing the film in this regard it has no faults at all. With this being her first film she has an extremely bright and interesting future ahead and I'm definitely now keen to see what she does next.
The other main positive of the film are the performances which across the board are fantastic, however there are a couple of standouts. Firstly Saoirse Ronan who is fantastic in the film and brings such heart to the character of Lady Bird. For me personally this is one of her best performances that she has done and only increases her reputation. Hopefully this will open up the door for her to get bigger roles more often, she is brilliant. The other standout in the film is Lady Bird's mother played by Laurie Metcalf, she is again incredible in the role and brings elements to her character that I think everyone will recognise in their own mother. She hopefully will get some awards buzz and maybe even a nomination.
Unfortunately though and I know that this is my own personal problem and fault that I feel this is film maybe a little overrated. This is partially to due my fault because well this isn't my type of film, I know thats not the films fault. I could never really connect to the story of the film but again thats my own opinion and fault, but I can understand how and why people really do connect with the story. Lastly the film is good is just nothing amazing or ground breaking in any sense so thats where I'm a little......not disappointed...... let down by the film because I was expecting a lot more considering the praise.
Overall its 70% out of 100 or 7 out of 10 its a good film and its a brilliant starting point for Greta Gerwig's directing career. As well as bringing us great directing it gives us two great performances that will really leave an impression on you after watching it. However because I couldn't connect to the film that much it didn't hit me as hard as it should emotionally, but again thats my problem really not the films. Best directing Oscar Nomination?
These things, and a million of other ones, are what an almost grown up human being's life is about. Well, maybe not everywhere and not for everyone, but most of us could surely relate to what Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson goes through. What Saoirse Ronan did to her character is no small feat. With her porcelain doll beauty and those pale blue eyes, she goes out of her typical closed and emotionally restrained character and becomes someone who yells and screams and laughs and cries and breaks things on screen, making Lady Bird so intense that it's unbearable at some points.
Making the character of Lady Bird so intense and hard to handle is probably both the film's best feature and its most serious flaw. In all the multitude of coming-of-age movies, the kid characters are mostly childish and they do dumb things often - but then some uncanny wisdom comes upon them and they grow up in our eyes and suddenly become reasonable and - let's be honest about this - tolerable at last. Lady Bird takes a slightly different road of dropping that sugarcoating and leaving Christine what she is - conflicted, hysterical, inconsistent and, damn, annoying! Just like the character of Christine's mother struggles to write her a letter and to choose words that would both be kind and ring true, so does the audience have a hard time accepting Lady Bird's edgy self. I certainly found it hard to do.
It's curious why we people love the coming-of-age stories. The kids watch them to see that someone does understand and does care about who they are, to see someone else who'd tell them that they are not alone. And we adults watch them to seek hope that those chaotic and erratic creatures we once gave birth to are indeed our kin and that sometime soon you'd get on the same page and would be able to actually talk to each other like responsible people.
In terms of promising the older generations a magical realm in which their progeny will be delivered to their hands all mature and stuff, Lady Bird isn't too reassuring. Nor does it promise us that kids secretly understand everything and it's just a lack of communication - because it's just not true. But there's one thing about this story that redeems all the facepalm moments you experience watching those kids do their kid stuff. That, just like the kids are not alone in their struggle, so aren't their parents. So there's no reason to blame the world on yourself and drown yourself in guilt and anger begotten by it - 'cause you're no more guilty than the other guy.
So, if you have a bird you love - just set it free, and if it loves you back, it will return some day and somehow.
The film features the themes of self identity in the character of Lady Bird, portrayed wonderfully by Saoirse Ronan. From the get-go we see her as a character who hates the place she lives, Sacramento and imagines herself in a different life somewhere more 'cultured like New York'. It's that sense of furthering herself and finding who she is that drives the actions of the character throughout the film. Saoirse Ronan portrays Lady bird in a fearless, fierce and even 'badass' way that really adds the heart and layer to the film when eventually that person almost dissolves and we understand the character on a deeper level.
Of course, this is also a film about love and more specifically the concept that love is attention. The core relationship between lady bird and her mother Marion played by Laurie Metcalf is the central love story of Lady bird. The attention and care that they give to each other that may seem toxic from an outsider's perspective versus the authenticity of the love and care that we as audiences also witness through the characters' own perspective. The small moments where no words are spoken yet they understand the needs of each other, such subtle details make this concept work and allows for the audience to really resonate with the authenticity of the film's portrayal of love between mother and daughter.
Overall, Lady bird was a very interesting exploration of the genre and a discussion about the teenage years as the years of exploration, experimentation and the search for self identity. But also the message that regardless of what happens there is always the anchor in the form of your home/families that was beautifully established here via the relationship of lady bird and Marion.
I mean, I kinda know why: in Lady Bird I could see myself as a teenager, being equally confused, miserable, enthusiastic, ambitious, scared, angry, angsty, all at the same time...wanting to pick a fight with my mum every other second and run to her for a hug right afterwards. It's all very common and very natural, so the success of this film doesn't come from its story, it comes from the way in which it is told.
Everything in this film feels so real and it hits all the right notes. The creative choice was "make it natural" and that's what they did: the dialogue, the acting, the photography is all spot-on and flawlessly contributes to the overall vision.
The title of my review is a reference to Linklater's film "Boyhood", another recent coming-of-age story with very similar goals and similar aspirations of realism. Although not comparable in terms of scope and ambition (Lady Bird didn't quite take 12 years to shoot nor did it aim to cover such a long period in the story, merely covering a year's worth of events in the protagonist's life) I think this film is a worthy and probably superior counterpart to "Boyhood".
After this little incident, the film fully begins, setting in motion for various events to happen to Lady Bird and her friends: in the 95 minutes of running-time, Lady Bird falls in and out of love, has sex and gains+loses friends. All of these events just pull together the main theme of the movie: a mum and daughter relationship.
As a mum and daughter they laugh, they cry, they fight and they smile, but at the end of the day they truly love each other, and deep down they both know it. Also, the town of Sacramento (and in-particular Lady Birds "hate" for it) is a big part of the story.
On the whole, the film is superb with superb performances, a superb script, some superb (solo-debut) directing from Greta Gerwig and most importantly a beautiful message, which will not only relate with audiences and movie-goers alike, but also make them feel a certain way.
The film manages to pull of everything a masterpiece should have and does it effortlessly. It (mostly) deserves all the awards it gets.