What the heck kind of name is Lady Bird?
Nature lovers will probably tell you it’s the name of an insect. The little red-spotted beetles you might find in your garden. Yes, an insect. Certainly not a bird, and not always a lady: it’s possible for these insects to be either male or female.
Like her insect namesake, (Saoirse Ronan) the main character of this film, is quite confused when it comes to what she really is. A rebellious 17-year-old girl from a low income family in the boring town of Sacramento, California, she longs for a life of better things. Even if reaching it means giving up who she really is.
Lady Bird’s life is nothing special, much to her frustration.
As she remarks to her mother in one of the earliest scenes of the film: “I just wish I could live through something.”
Her struggles are not apocalypses, magic schools, or dystopian societies: instead, she worries about getting into college, dating boys, and getting along with her strict mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf).
The film is a coming-of-age comedy which celebrates one summer in Lady Bird’s life, as she falls in love and tries to survive her Catholic school.
It’s all completely ordinary. But it’s all also completely real. And that, perhaps, is the best thing about this film.
It takes the mundane stuff of everyday life, and portrays it on screen in such an honest, charming style, that it is difficult not to be won over by it. Yes, the film seems to say, a life may be ordinary, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.
Lady Bird (the film, to be precise!) has been making a lot of waves recently.
It won Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) and Best Actress awards at this year’s Golden Globes. It’s also been nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
At one point, it was the best-reviewed movie of all time on review site Rotten Tomatoes (it eventually lost this title to Paddington 2.)
What’s even more amazing is that this film is the solo directorial debut of actress Greta Gerwig, who starred in films such as To Rome With Love, Jackie and 20th Century Women.
Its winning formula is simple: Lady Bird feels like a slice of life – every scene from beginning to end feels completely authentic.
The film does a fantastic job of capturing the giddy highs and crushing lows of being a teenager. It celebrates the little milestones of growing up, such as the delights of a first kiss or the frustrations of receiving a college rejection.
It’s also very, very, funny. It has a wonderful script and well-written characters resulting in a treasure trove of hilarious lines and situations. One particular film highlight revolves around a football coach forced to take over Lady Bird’s school theatre production.
Actress Ronan does a fantastic job of portraying the film’s protagonist, and gives, possibly, one of the truest depictions of a teenager on the silver screen. Her Lady Bird even has acne (Ronan decided not to cover her face with make-up for the role).
Her Lady Bird is a quirky misfit who manages to be both self-centred and good-natured at the same time, a girl who’s simultaneously confident about what she wants yet is insecure about who she is.
Lady Bird doesn’t always do the right thing. Some of her decisions are rather cringe-worthy – she is a teenager afer all. Yet Ronan keeps her relatable and even quite lovable throughout the film.
Metcalf does a fantastic job of supporting her: indeed, the mother-daughter relationship is the crux of Lady Bird.
Marion is a strict, overbearing mother, who is perhaps a little too harsh on her daughter, yet will gladly work two overtime shifts just to make sure Lady Bird is happy.
Their love-hate relationship is both glorious and painful to watch. Both characters hurt each other both intentionally and unintentionally through their interactions, which can go from pleasant to venomous in the span of seconds.
If the film has any flaws, it’s perhaps in its supporting characters, who can sometimes come across as stereotypes – the supportive plus-sized friend; the shallow popular girl; the supportive father.
The film’s subplot regarding Lady Bird’s love interests is also predictable.
Fortunately, Gerwig still manages to infuse these stock characters with enough depth and honesty that they remain mostly compelling.
There will probably be at least one moment in Lady Bird where you will nod your head (or cringe!) at the screen and think, “oh, that’s so me”.
Where most films depict historic or larger than life people and events, Lady Bird is quite nicely made up of more every day stuff.
Thanks to its honest story and remarkable acting performances, Lady Bird definitely soars.
Director: Greta Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts