Between Jordan Peele with “Get Out,” Aaron Sorkin with “Molly’s Game” and Greta Gerwig here, 2017 has been a great year for directorial debuts.
“Lady Bird” stars Saoirse Ronan as a high school senior living in 2002 Sacramento. In her final year before going off to college, she deals with boys, popularity and her turbulent relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf). Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet and Beanie Feldstein also star as Greta Gerwig writes and directs.
It seems that despite being 23-years-old, Saoirse Ronan can’t seem to escape playing a high schooler. “Brooklyn,” “Lost River,” “The Host,” just like Emma Roberts she is stuck in her teen years on-screen. But it seems to be working for her, as she nabbed her second career Oscar nomination for “Brooklyn” and will likely get a third for her work here, as her Christine (self-named “Lady Bird”) is a young woman who means well but can’t seem to find out where she is supposed to fit in the world.
The performances and script are what make this movie work. Ronan and Metcalf play well off each other as a mother-daughter combo who rarely see eye-to-eye. They have moments of bonding and mutual laughs that will quickly turn to arguing, mostly due to Metcalf feeling her daughter is not appreciative for the life that her and her husband have struggled to provide for her.
Lucas Hedges (incredible in last year’s “Manchester by the Sea”) plays an awkward teen much like last year’s Oscar-nominated role and he is solid here. Hopefully he doesn’t fall into the same high school typecasting as Ronan but much like her if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Timothée Chalamet (an impending Oscar nominee for this year’s “Call Me by Your Name”) is solid enough, but he mostly keeps to himself and spouts radical anti-establishment theories; if you watched him here you probably wouldn’t guess that he has an Academy Award nomination in his near-future.
Gerwig’s script is honest and relatably funny, even though I never had a toxic relation with my mother or attended Catholic school. There are some bits of dialogue that hurt my sides I was laughing so hard, even when the line wasn’t even meant to be a genuine joke (Ronan’s friend asks if she’s worried about terrorism in New York City and she responded “don’t be such a Republican.” I don’t know, I laughed out loud).
What holds the film back from being truly great, despite all its great moments, is its structure. The plot is set over one year but a lot happens in Ronan’s life and it seems a little contrived, and she seems to move on from some major life events rather quickly. The film almost feels like a bunch of vignettes, with some subplots are randomly introduced and then never addressed, like a supporting character being seen being treated for depression and then quite literally not appearing in the film again.
“Lady Bird” at some times is brilliant and at others frustratingly mundane but the overall product is still something worth seeing. Gerwig, whose star has been rising for a few years now, shows that she has the chops to one day possibly create a truly great piece of cinema because as far as directorial debuts go, this is a very impressive first step and leaves us excited for her career.
Critics Rating: 8/10
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