Friday, January 12, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Lady Bird (2017)

The first time I saw the trailer for LADY BIRD (2017), I had zero interest in seeing it, thinking it looked like a depressing mess.

My daughter loved it and encouraged me to reconsider, and I'm so glad she did. It's only January 12th, but I suspect this film, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, will remain one of the highlights of my movie viewing year. I'm going to be thinking about it for a long time to come.

The movie stars Saoirse Ronan, who was so good in BROOKLYN (2015) two years ago. She's equally good here, although in some ways it's difficult to recognize her as the same actress, so completely does she inhabit each role.

Ronan plays high school senior Christine McPherson, who has renamed herself "Lady Bird." Lady Bird is anxious to leave her hometown of Sacramento for an East College college -- not just for the culture ("where writers live in the woods") but for a respite from everything she knows, whether religion (she's a scholarship student at a Catholic high school) or her fractious relationship with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Lady Bird recognizes that her mother loves her tremendously, but as her father (Tracy Letts) says, they both have "strong personalities."

LADY BIRD is a coming of age story, following Lady Bird throughout her senior year in 2002-03. She deals with college applications, her father being laid off, her first job, first boyfriend (Lucas Hedges), second boyfriend (Timothee Chalamet), and juggling relationships with friends Julie (Beanie Feldstein) and Jenna (Odeya Rush).

Through it all she has ups and downs with her mother, who is crushed to learn Lady Bird applied to East Coast colleges without telling her, something she only learns when Lady Bird is wait listed at one of the schools.

As a fellow film blogger, Andy, wrote in his own review, a viewer may seem not to have a great deal in common with the characters in this film, yet it's amazingly relatable. And any parent who's ever had to tell their teenager things like "They're laying off a lot of people at your dad's office" or "We can't afford for you to attend your East Coast dream school" will instantly connect.

At the same time, I appreciated that the film was a bit unpredictable and didn't go for easy "button pushing" emotional moments. The emotions it brings up are from the truth of the scenes and characters, not because the filmmakers are manipulating the audience.

Lady Bird's choices aren't always admirable, but they always seem real, and she remains sympathetic even when I wished I could tell her "Oh, don't do that, you'll regret it!" I found the final scenes deeply moving, as she begins to reconnect with various aspects of her life which she had seemingly turned her back on.

All of the acting is excellent, including Letts as Lady Bird's quiet father, who's often a mediator between his wife and daughter. Particular kudos also go to Hedges as Lady Bird's troubled boyfriend and Lois Smith as a nun at Lady Bird's school. Smith's film career goes back to EAST OF EDEN (1955), and she's great here recognizing from Lady Bird's writing that she has deeper feelings for Sacramento than she realizes.

LADY BIRD was filmed by Sam Levy on location in Sacramento and elsewhere. Kudos also to Chris Jones and Traci Spadorcia, the production and set decorator who provided so many recognizable details, right down to the vintage Pyrex in the McPherson kitchen.

The movie runs a well-paced 94 minutes.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated R, which I feel is appropriate.

Highly recommended.


Blogger Tangled Up in Books said...

Great review, Laura, and thanks for the shout out! I really do love the movie and its performances and can't wait to see it again.

3:07 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

Being focused on other things I really had not paid any attention to this movie. As a matter of fact I knew so little I thought it was a movie about Lady Bird Johnson!!! LOL. So thanks for cluing me in and I will watch it later when it comes out on DVD. I also recently watched Dunkirk and was very confused to begin with so I went back to your review and caught on to the three different time frames. That helped a lot! I enjoyed the movie but I'm not quite sure what all the hype was about when it first came out. I think it is an important part of history that most people don't know about (unless they are of a certain age) that needs to be told and I enjoyed it but that's about all.

I have seen more movies mostly on DVD since August of 2016 than I have in years. I've really gotten into some of them, like the Marvel Universe, than I normally would. This is because I would take my computer to my brother's nursing facility and we would watch the newest release movie that he wanted to see. He was all into Disney/Pixer, Marvel, DC, Fantasy - those kinds of things. Well, he passed away Thursday evening and the last movie we watched together was Cars 3 which we both thoroughly enjoyed. I had the Dunkirk DVD from the library to show him but because he was failing, he was not up to it. After watching it, I'm glad I didn't show it to him as it would have been too confusing and depressing. I did give him a synopsis of the movie and he agreed he probably wouldn't want to watch it. I'm just sorry he didn't get to see the newest Star Wars, Thor and Coco movies. I haven't seen Star Wars or Thor yet as I was waiting to watch it with him. But I did see Coco and I know he would have loved it!!!

9:27 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Andy! I really enjoyed your review also and am glad to have shared it! I think this is a movie which will lend itself to additional appreciation the more we see it.

Best wishes,

4:11 PM  
Blogger Laura said...


I'm so glad to hear from you, and my very deepest sympathy on the loss of your brother. I know you were very close and you must miss him terribly. I'm glad you got to spend so much special time with him sharing the movies you love. (It's kind of a nice legacy that he introduced you to some things like Marvel which are now part of your viewing.) I am so very sorry about his passing.

Like you I had no idea what LADY BIRD was about until quite recently. I'm glad to know that my review helped you understand the unique storytelling in DUNKIRK. I agree -- I was glad I saw it but that's it. I'm still waiting for *the* DUNKIRK movie which really captures the inspiring story!

You've been missed around here though it's certainly understandable. Hope to hear more from you in the future.

Best wishes,

4:17 PM  

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