#REVIEW: “LADY BIRD”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is an ambitious high school senior living in Sacramento in the early 2000s. Christine is a bit of a rebel – she identifies and requests people call her Lady Bird – and like many teenagers, she longs to move away for college. But her grades, lack of extracurricular activities and strained relationship with her overworked mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) are just some of the obstacles standing in her way.
As an actress, I don’t have much of an impression of Greta Gerwig. She has a great aura and infectious presence on-screen, but I never gravitated towards her mumblecore performances or her work with partner Noah Baumbach. And that makes Lady Bird, her solo directorial debut, so much more special. Gerwig has taken everything she learned on the Indie scene and has created a Film that is infused with wonder, humour, angst, regret, anger and nostalgia – all the hallmarks of the adolescence Lady Bird herself is living through. There is nothing fancy or overly flashy about Gerwig’s directing style, but it exudes an honesty and confidence that is missing from the work of even her more seasoned peers. And I admire her restraint in staying behind the camera exclusively, as opposed to jumping in front of it as well.
Her Screenplay – one of this season’s sure-fire Oscar contenders – is even stronger. Gerwig claims Lady Bird’s story is not autobiographical, but I do not believe it. These characters and situations feel too ‘lived-in’ and much too real not to have happened in real life. Each character is richly-detailed, layered with nuances and more depth than you might expect. The interpersonal relationships Lady Bird shares with each of these characters – her mother especially – all feel natural and emotionally-resonant. And no matter what length of time they appear, Gerwig ensures each character leaves a lasting impact on the Film. Her adoration for these characters is truly remarkable, allowing for her infectious energy to truly come alive on-screen.
If marrying her skills as Writer and Director were not enough, Gerwig has assembled a brilliant Ensemble to breathe life into these characters. Tracy Letts, Lois Smith, Odeya Rush, hilarious scene-stealer Beanie Feldstein (Jonah Hill’s younger sister), Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges and future Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet all deliver remarkable performances. Metcalf is the clear standout of the supporting players however, giving one of the best performances of her lengthy career. You want to hate her and the things she says to Lady Bird, but you also feel the anguish, pain and struggles she faces as a mother and wife. She is a strong woman who refuses to break, and the understated emotion Gerwig is able to pull out of Metcalf is truly magnificent to witness.
And then there is Ronan. The ferociously-talented double (and now possibly triple!) Oscar nominee continues to redefine herself as an actress, and is blisteringly-vivid in her performance as the title character. We want to see Lady Bird succeed and our hearts break when she fails. Ronan charts the ups and downs of adolescence with an authentic edge, never straying away from Gerwig’s deeper introspection. Her quick wit and flawless accent only help crystalize how exceptional this performance is.
Lady Bird is a delightful Coming-of-Age Film that never ceases to surprise. Gerwig’s direction and Screenplay are superb, and prove how incredibly multi-talented she is. The Film may be about a rebellious teenager, but this is a story we can all get behind.
Elevation Pictures release LADY BIRD in select theatres starting Friday, November 10, 2017.