There’s not much to say about how I found this film. Saw a trailer, it looked charming, it’s starring Saoirse Ronan, and it’s got some major critical praise. What can a guy like me do, but be interested? I know, brief as hell, but it’s all I got.
The story looks like it’s about this young woman and her single mother, both have strong personalities and are moving to a new home in California, and the girl is just not having it. She’s basically just trying to prove that she’s smart and knows what she’s doing, but probably faces obstacles that prove that she’s got a ways to go.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Saoirse Ronan (LOVING VINCENT , THE HOST , THE LOVELY BONES , and the upcoming MARY QUEEN OF THE SCOTS ), Laurie Metcalf (TOY STORY 3 , TREASURE PLANET , TV show ROSANNE [1988 – 1997], and upcoming TV revival ROSANNE  and film TOY STORY 4 ), Tracy Letts (THE LOVERS , INDIGNATION , THE BIG SHORT , and the upcoming THE POST ), and Beanie Feldstein (NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY ROW ). In support, we have Lucas Hedges (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA , LABOR DAY , MOONRISE KINGDOM , and the upcoming THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI ), Lois Smith (THE COMEDIAN , MINORITY REPORT , TWISTER , and the upcoming THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS ), Odeya Rush (GOOSEBUMPS , THE GIVER , and THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN ), and Kathryn Newton (PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 , BAD TEACHER , TV show LITTLE BIG LIES , and the upcoming THREE BILLBOARDS).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing is actress Greta Gerwig, known for directing NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS (2008), but has been in films 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (2016) and JACKIE (2016). Composing the score is Jon Brion, known for WILSON (2017), ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004), and PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002). Finally, the cinematographer is Sam Levy, known for WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (2014) and a bunch of documentaries.
Overall, I’m sure I’ll like this movie fine. It looks good, interesting cast, I’m on board.
This is my honest opinion of: LADY BIRD
Set in 2002. The story follows the young pretentious, yet well-meaning Christine, or as she prefers to be called, “Lady Bird” (Soarise Ronan). She and her family just moved to California, somewhere she doesn’t want to be. It follows her life of trying to live like a normal teenager, dating boys, going to school, as well as trying to be the person that she wants to be, mostly just not being anchored down by her loving, but strict mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf).
I’m actually not too sure how I feel about this movie. On the one hand, I don’t have any particular problems with it. In fact, it says a lot about a movie where I can’t take notes on it and just lose myself in the story. On the other hand, I don’t think this is a movie that I haven’t seen before.
Well, let’s take a look at the positives. First off, Ronan knocks it out of the park. Holy hell is she amazing. One of her finest performances of her career. She brings such power to her performance, from the softer, more vulnerable scenes, to the teen angst, she continues to prove that she’s a heavyweight of her generation. It’s also one of her more distinguished looks of her career, which is saying something as she does a great job being memorable in most of her projects. The winter-wear bad-ass assassin in HANNA (2011), the 1930’s style in BROOKLYN (2015), now we have the catholic schoolgirl with red hair who gave herself the name “Lady Bird.”
Metcalf is also incredible as the mother who feels unappreciated in her efforts to provide a decent life for her family. She works her ass off as a nurse, comes home to a rebellious teen daughter that she butts heads with, it’s almost a wonder why the movie doesn’t split the focus of its story with the two ladies. Though… maybe in a brilliant sort of way, even though this is Lady Bird’s story, they still work in just how integral she is to the story. I mean, no duh, it’s about a daughter and her mother, so of course the mother would be integral, but Marion feels a little more humanized here. She works her ass off, gets almost zero credit from her daughter, her husband goes behind her back to do Lady Bird favors, which betrays her trust, and all these other things that make her feel small and useless.
Although I do have to ask the question, did I miss the part where it was a bad thing that Lady Bird got into a college and one of her more preferred ones at that? Maybe it’s because I was hopped up on two long island iced teas, but aren’t parents generally happy when their kids get into colleges, no matter how far away it’d be. And hell, I don’t even remember if distance was the issue with Marion. I think I remember the two arguing about other colleges she can get into, but you’d think Lady Bird’s happiness would be paramount in that department.
The comedy also really shines through. There’s a bit where you see Lady Bird and Julie (Beanie Feldstein) snacking on Sacramental bread (they go to a Catholic school), which I found hilarious. There’s also the acting exercises for their school’s play and one of the games was “first to cry.” I won’t give away the punchline, but… I was howling. And even some other dramatic moments stand out. Like, Lady Bird was dating this cute boy Danny (Lucas Hedges), and they really had a nice relationship, but then finds him making out with another boy. Quite a shock in of itself, which naturally sent Lady Bird’s emotions through the proverbial woodchipper. But in a later scene, we see him trying to talk to her about the incident and he comes out to her, fully admitting it. That was really heartbreaking to watch, as you can imagine being a closet homosexual in a Catholic school has got to be a frightening thing to live with. But Lady Bird accepts it, they hug, and the emotions just speak for itself. That was a great scene that felt real.
Now it’s time to talk about why I felt a little underwhelmed by the movie.
While I’m not sure if this necessarily a fault in the movie, it feels a little too similar to other projects in the recent past, one of them Gerwig was actually a part of. Specifically, I mean 20TH CENTURY WOMEN and CERTAIN WOMEN (2016), both in writing style for the characters and even the aesthetic of the film itself. Each movie is overly realistic in its portrayal of mothers (referring to the Michelle Williams portion of CERTAIN WOMEN) and their troubled family relationships, specifically their children. I also feel like both films also utilize a soft focus, or soft lighter colors. The younger characters are somehow deeply philosophical beyond their years, the mothers are disconnected from their children, it just all feels a little too… repeated. To be fair, these are different movies. The Michelle Williams portion of CERTAIN WOMEN focused more on how undermined she was treated in her marriage and how much her daughter didn’t listen to her when she asked her to participate in the construction of their home. 20TH CENTURY WOMEN focused more on the mother and her growing understanding that the times are changing and her son’s personal life will always be a mystery to her, no matter how much she tries to be a part of it. Here, the focus is on the child and her trying to break free of her mother’s influence and guilt trips, but still wishing they had something in common to better connect with each other. Different films, but extremely similar in feel and themes. Undermined authority of the mother and disconnection between the mother and child. Perhaps I would like this movie as much as everyone else does if I hadn’t seen these previous films, which feel like they really influenced this.
Also, now that I’ve foolishly looked up this film online, it looks like Gerwig wanted this to be a female equivalent to BOYHOOD (2014), or similar films to that. Basically a film about growing up, but in the perspective of a female. Um… yeah, while I think the movie’s are on par with each other as far as quality in storytelling and characters, BOYHOOD is in a different class of its filmmaking, in the sense that it took eighteen some-odd years, off and on, to make. Gerwig’s been trying to get this off the ground for two years. Don’t get me wrong, making a film is not easy, and getting one financed by a production company and released to the public is probably even harder. But eighteen years? Same cast of adults and kids, and still keeping them interested? Literally watching the kids grow up? over the course of this three hour movie? That’s… something else and I don’t think LADY BIRD is quite like that. This isn’t a negative toward the movie, but it’s a comment that I needed to… well, comment on.
Again, to be fair, between the two aformentioned films, CERTAIN WOMEN and 20TH CENTURY WOMEN, and this film, LADY BIRD is the superior film. It’s funnier, it’s more interesting, it’s better written, and it’s got more memorable and powerful performances that I think will leave a bigger impact on me. Do I see this movie as great as everyone else? Not really, but I won’t argue those that do. It’s brilliant and for Gerwig, who’s not the most experienced director, this is impressively done and I hope to see her write and direct more in the near future. Whatever she chooses, I’ll be interested. High recommendation from me. It’s likely got a limited release, so it might take a little effort to find it at you local cinemas, but it’s well worth that effort, time, and money. This spunky bird’s flight home is quite the trip.
My honest rating for LADY BIRD: a strong 4/5