There’s a word that describes the infectiously lovable Lady Bird, and it’s one that best characterizes the film’s writer and director as well: original. Delightfully, achingly original.
Having won over art-house audiences after starring as Noah Baumbach’s flighty blonde muse in films Frances Ha and Mistress America, indie darling Greta Gerwig asserts herself as an equally gifted storyteller with her loose but confident directorial debut, Lady Bird. Gerwig manages to do more than just tell the story of a spunky and spirited high school youth entering young adulthood in small-town Sacramento. She also validates the “Dilemma of the Young Person” as more than just a teenage angst-filled journey, but a constant striving for identity and the self-inflicted struggle of one’s calling to be original, or, to be “an original.”
I’ll just go ahead and say it now – Lady Bird is one of the most spirited and enjoyable films of the year, and you would be doing yourself a favor to see it at your soonest opportunity.
Lady Bird is a laugh a minute – sometimes even quicker – as we follow our punky protagonist, high school senior Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). Her restless nature colors the whims of her world as much as her dyed red-streaked hair colors her quirky appearance (the film takes place in 2002, so the look and fashions are one step delayed). The film weaves through all of the moments of Lady Bird’s life – auditioning for the school musical, the butterflies of a budding relationship and becoming intimate with a boy (Lucas Hedges), and applying to liberal arts schools on the east coast. The latter is an essential escape Lady Bird feels she needs to break out of her confining and lifeless environment. All this is experienced with her best friend (Beanie Feldstein) and under the critical eye of her mother (Laurie Metcalf) who, when not criticizing each of her quirks, reminds her of the family’s financial constraints and its effect on her dreams.
If directorial debuts are the best revelation of the true spirit of the filmmaker, then it should come as no surprise that Greta Gerwig’s first feature film soars.
Saoirse Ronan, who swaps her native Irish accent for a NorCal attitude, is ferociously fun as Lady Bird, a sort of female equivalent of Max Fischer from Rushmore. They don’t set out to necessarily upset the establishment, but do so out of necessity to their natures. Like Fischer, precociously punky and unapologetically flawed, Lady Bird’s shortcomings stem from trouble with friends and family and her unwillingness to blend into the background.
Lady Bird is infectiously funny and so pure-spirited that it will leave you emotionally complete. The laughs ring true, and so do the heartache and despondency. If directorial debuts are the best revelation of the true spirit of the filmmaker, then it should come as no surprise that Greta Gerwig’s first feature film soars.
‘Lady Bird’ is rated R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying. 93 minutes. Now playing at AMC Century City, The Landmark, and ArcLight Theaters.