- Writer-director Greta Gerwig impresses with directorial debut
- Refreshingly original and unique
- Witty, funny script with enjoyable subplots and lots of laughs
- Great strong characters with career-best performances
- Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan are fantastic, individually and together
On the face of it, Lady Bird is nothing new; we’ve seen coming-of-age/self-discovery teen films countless times before. Sometime’s they’re great, sometimes they’re god awful. Somehow though Lady Bird manages to buck this trend and stand out as being refreshingly original and not quite like your average coming-of-age/self-discovery teen film – especially impressive for a directorial debut!
Sick of living on the “wrong side of the tracks” in boring Sacramento, frustratedly and precocious teenager Christine, o Lady Bird as she insists to be called, (Saoirse Ronan) dreams of escaping the incessant boredom of the “Midwest of California,” he sights set fiercely at fancy arts colleges on the East Coast – schools her parents certainly can’t afford. Finances are something Lady Bird refuses to let get in the way though and stays determined, living through a hectic year of first loves, boyfriends, tensions between friends and unending arguments with her fierce but loving mother (Laurie Metcalf).
It could be very easy for a story charting a year in the life of a narcissistic teenager to be annoying, childish or perhaps even patronising. Lady Bird is none of those, but rather as charming as its protagonist, mature and even understanding. While the main plot of the story is Lady Bird’s determination to make it to East Coast colleges, there are so many subplots that emerge in her life that are a joy to be distracted by. We can all identify with these milestones, from first love to falling out with a friend, but these milestones are enjoyable to revisit with a character like Lady Bird and with such witty, quick writing that really captivates the voice of a frustrated teenager. Much of this is down to the excellent script by writer-director Greta Gerwig, in which strong characters are created and from which a plethora of funny, quotable lines come, making you question if it’s more a drama or comedy. Gerwig also emphasises an interesting sense of nostalgia, setting the story in the recent past (2002). Not so far gone as to require frequent nods to the culture of the period, instead we feel as if we’re transported back in time in a more subtle way, feeling younger just being able to see those beefy computer monitors.
The film certainly belongs to its star, but Ronan isn’t the only decent cast member. The supporting cast is great, from boyfriends to best friends, each is different and not just a cliched depiction of teenage archetypes, but rather come across as genuine. The real stars of the show though are Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan, with the relationship between their characters being the real crux of the whole film. Metcalf is probably best known as Sheldon’s ultra-religious Texan mother in The Big Bang Theory, but that’s likely to be overshadowed now. Really showing us what she can do, she may still play a mother with a strong personality, but instead Lady Bird allows Metcalf to give a more nuanced, understated performance, making her a much more realistic, complicated character with whom audiences can instantly engage and form various opinions. Saoirse Ronan has been around for ages, first breaking through as Briony in Atonement way back in 2007 at just 13 years old. She’s been in lots since, impressing time and again, particularly in Brooklyn. It’s as Lady Bird though that we really see Ronan at her best. Were those lines to be spoken by someone else, Christine could be a thoroughly unlikable character and the film might not have worked. Instead, with Christine played by Ronan, she’s well-developed, delightfully complex and consistently likeable, despite her penchant for being frequently narcissistic and frustrating. She’s a teenage character we can’t help but love and enjoy discovering who she is at the same time she does, sharing in both joy and heartbreak from stat to finish.
Sadly Lady Bird may not have won any Academy Awards, but it certainly deserved each of the five nominations. With a witty, funny script, Gerwig delivers on an impressive directorial debut with excellent performances from Metcalf and Ronan. A hilarious and touching coming-of-age film, ripe with nostalgia, laughs, self-discovery and great characters, Lady Bird flies high.