The opening scene of “Lady Bird,” features the passive-aggressive, Marion McPherson, a role completely embodied by Emmy winner Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne). She is taking her seventeen-year-old daughter Christine, who wants to be addressed as ‘Lady Bird,’ portrayed in a nuanced manner by Golden Globe winner, Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), on a tour of colleges. The schools are all located within a reasonable driving distance from their home in Sacramento, California. The two are listening to an audio cassette of Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author, John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” When the tape concludes, both mother and daughter wipe tears from their eyes, however, after that show of sentimentality, an argument ensues and begins to escalate. Lady Bird decides that the best course of action to end the dispute, is to throw herself out of the moving car, so she can be assured of having the last word. For her actions, her forearm is placed in a pink colored cast, that she will have to wear for the majority of the film.
The year is 2002, and Lady Bird is about to enter her senior year, at Immaculate Heart , a Catholic high school. Lady Bird has a desire to leave California and attend college on the east coast. She thinks, that by doing so, she will find the adventure and enlightenment that is missing from her life. The problem of her parents’ finances, or lack thereof, is looming over her, and may keep that dream from becoming a reality. In addition to the McPherson’s not having the financial resources to send Lady Bird to an east coast college, her grades are mediocre at best.
In the interim, Lady Bird is participating in her school’s play, while also attempting to figure out ways to fit in with the predominately affluent group of students, who attend her school. She deals with not one, but two romantic relationships, with two polar opposite guys: First there is Danny, played by Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), who is also acting in the school play; She’s also attracted to Kyle, a pompous guy, who smokes hand rolled cigarettes. The role is acted by two-time, BAFTA nominee Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name). Throughout the film, Lady Bird, makes errors in judgment, as all teenagers do. For example, she shuns her best friend, the smart and genuine, Julie (Beanie Feldstein), for a chance to socialize with aloof, popular girl, Jenna (Odeya Rush). When all is said and done, however, Lady Bird demonstrates to the viewer that she has a big capacity for love, which, mistakes aside, makes her character endearing.
Metcalf’s Marion is argumentative, but at the same time loving. She might be dolling out tough-love, but she is loving nonetheless. Marion is a woman who seemingly is willing to do anything she can for her daughter, and truly wants what is best for Lady Bird. She is a nurse who works double shifts at the hospital psychiatric ward in order to help keep the electric on, and food on the table in the McPherson home. Comprising the rest of the family, is Lady Bird’s even-tempered father, Larry, played by Tracy Letts (Divorce). He is an unemployed computer technician, who is depressed, but puts on a show for those he loves so they don’t worry about his well-being. Lady Bird also has an adopted, brother, Miguel played by Jordan Rodrigues (The Fosters). He lives at the house with his girlfriend, Shelly (Marielle Scott). Additional cast members include, Lois Smith (Five Easy Pieces), as an understanding, nun, Sister Sarah Joan; Stephen Henderson (Fences), appears in the role of Father Leviatch. He is the drama teacher, and like Lady Bird’s father, is living with serious depression.
“Lady Bird” was directed by two-time Golden Globe nominee Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), who also wrote the screenplay. The film marks Gerwig’s solo feature directorial debut; she had previously co-directed the film “Nights and Weekends” with Joe Swanberg. The film premiered on September 1, 2017 in Colorado at the Telluride Film Festival, and is based, in part, on Gerwig’s experiences growing up in Sacramento. Gerwig opted to avoid focusing merely on the romance and first time sexual experiences that have been seen numerous times in clichéd, coming-of-age films, and that is what helps to set “Lady Bird” apart from its predecessors. Despite everything else that the film showcases to viewers, the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother makes up the heart of the film’s story. In addition, “Lady Bird” is well-edited. Not once, during its 94 minute runtime, did I feel the film dragged.
Gerwig delivers an enjoyable, yet emotionally impactful film that is equal parts comedic and thoughtful. The film has been nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, which airs on ABC television on March 4th, and after watching the movie, I am not surprised. Guided by Gerwig’s direction and writing, which are spot on, the actors are uniformly excellent in their respective roles, as they showcase an authentic look at a year in the life of Lady Bird, and those who are part of her life.