OH WHAT A wonderful movie! “Lady Bird” is an intimate, honest, carefully observed story about that moment when the child emerges, fighting and kicking, as an individual…no longer just an expression of a parent.
“Lady Bird” is the name our eponymous protagonist, Christine, gives herself. She desperately wants to be a distinct, unique being; one free from the nagging dictates of her mom, for whom “love” and “control” are inextricably linked. The ‘crisis’ that the movie explores is that moment when the child’s need for freedom (wonderfully demonstrated when Ladybird throws herself out of her mother’s moving car) so easily becomes a zero sum game, where a victory for the one results in a terrible sense of loss for the other.
The irony in “Lady Bird” is that mother and daughter are quite clearly cut from the same cloth. They look alike (director Greta Gerwig is at pains to morph the profile of the one into the other to make her point) and they sound alike. But the moment must come when the assertion of self has to take precedence over the loving symbiosis that binds mother (and father) and child together. And it’s this moment that Director Gerwig (seems to) sit back and observe from a distance. She simply allows this domestic drama to unfold with seemingly little authorial prodding. She encourages us to engage with and identify the many multiple sparks of recognition that make this such a fascinating movie
There’s not a wrong note in the movie…which always shies away from Hollywood hysteria and refuses to overdramatize the everyday confrontations and crises of growing up and going away. Lady Bird’s schoolgirl crushes, her mock-heroic first sexual encounter, her (mainly) love (sometimes) hate relationship with her mother, all feel real.
We’ve all been there.
Oscar nominee Saoirse (pronounced Shear-sea) Ronan (“Brooklyn”) is just tremendous as Lady Bird. Her performance is quiet, understated and fully realized. There’s not an ‘acterly’ gesture in her performance. The same can be said of fellow Oscar nominee Laurie Metcalf whose portrayal beautifully balances the outside mien of the often stern, sturdy, tough, breadwinner with the private heart-break of any mom grieving over the loss of her child and the birth of the adult.
Greta Gerwig, who wrote the brilliant “Frances Ha” has only directed one minor production before (back in 2008). She’s clearly a major new ‘Indie’ force to be reckoned with. And what a pity a movie like this (honest, unpretentious, insightful, “real”), along with the absolutely under-appreciated “The Florida Project”, isn’t more lauded than the typical bloated, rah-rah-rah excesses of “Dunkirk” and “Darkest Hour”.
Lady Bird. Dir. (and writer): Greta Girwig. With: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts. Cinematographer: Sam Levy (“Frances Ha”)