Review by J.T. Johnson
Going in to see “Lady Bird”, I knew that it was a coming-of-age story about a young woman who calls herself Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) instead of the name that her parents gave her. I figured that I would be getting a lesson about the trials of a young woman that is about to enter the real world and what she goes through with both her friends and parents. While I got that with the movie, I was also surprised by how much a man such as myself also related to Lady Bird.
The titular character is an outsider who wants to express her creative freedom even though she is sometimes suppressed by the authority figures in her life. She is also rejected by the kids that are inherently better off than she is and she wants to escape from her home town. These are all themes that anyone in the audience can relate to and I most certainly did. It was great, in a way, to live through the joys and also the pain that comes with naturally growing up.
Writer and director Greta Gerwig creates an unflinchingly realistic portrayal of a young person’s life through Lady Bird. At the center of the story is her strained relationship with her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf). While they can be laughing and talking to each other one moment, they could find themselves at each other’s throat and not talking to each other in another moment.
Once again, this is a realistic portrait of a parent who loves her daughter but doesn’t always know how to communicate with her. It also shows a daughter who also loves her parents but doesn’t always understand what they go through to provide for her.
The center of this film are the stellar performances from the cast. I realized after the film that there is not one weak link in the entire film. At the center of it all is Ronan and Metcalf as the often warring but also caring daughter and mother.
Ronan has to find the balance between being a carefree spirit while always reminding us that this is a young woman who is still trying to find her own way for her future. In the hands of a lesser actress, this lead role could of simply annoyed the adults in the audience because the lesser actress would have overplayed Lady Bird’s more bratty moments. Ronan plays it straight thankfully and this may be one of the most believable teenage characters that I’ve ever seen committed to the screen.
Metcalf also provides one of the most realistic mothers I’ve ever seen on celluloid. In many ways, like Lady Bird’s father mentions in the movie, Marion can be just as stubborn as her daughter, never wanting to admit her own faults in being able to tell Lady Bird what she thinks. In the end, though, you never forget how much Marion tries to provide for her family and Metcalf proves that she is one of Hollywood’s most underrated actresses.
Even though the performances are great, none of them would occur without a solid script. Gerwig has made her solo writing debut as well as her directing debut. It is a confident filmmaking achievement and I would not be surprised to see Gerwig win the Academy Award for Best Directing and Best Screenplay for this genuine coming-of-age story. While I have no say in the matter as a lowly critic, I think that they would be well deserved wins.