That Lady Bird is such a delight is a testament to Greta Gerwig’s sudden spurt of maturity.
Frances Ha, while mainly lauded, was a source of hipster irritation in extremis, a film that tried so hard, it practically burst out of the screen and demanded you love it.
But Lady Bird, a coming-of-age and relationship film, positively bursts with joviality, relatability and universal themes that it makes its 90-minute run time feel just about right.
Ronan plays the precocious, yet familiar, flawed and relatable teen Christine, the self-penned Lady Bird, a teen growing up in the suburbs of Sacramento, California in 2002. Burdened with life at a Catholic high school and with a desire to escape to New York for college, Lady Bird’s tribulations are all-too familiar to anyone who was an adolescent (ie everyone).
Quarreling with her mother (played with empathy and frustration by Laurie Metcalf), neogtiating a way to get better grades and dipping her toes in the relationship pool, Lady Bird finds growing up isn’t as easy as her sassy outlook would have her believe.
Much like the wise-cracking of Juno, and just about every coming-of-age film you’ve ever seen, Lady Bird manages to subvert some of the tropes of the genre with deftness by Gerwig and her leading lady, Ronan.
From touches like holding off make up and letting Ronan’s acne stand out on the screen to the wonderful cut-scenes that capture simultaneously the beauty and boredom of small town life, Gerwig’s Lady Bird grounds itself in such innate realness that it’s everyone’s slice of life. It crackles with a contagious freshness too, from sparky dialogue to subtle reactionary moments.
And that’s where the strength lies – Gerwig’s characters are all true to themselves; there are no (spoiler alert) Hollywood style big moments here – everything that happens feels like it should happen and never feels like the audience or, crucially, the characters are cheated.
While the film judders a little towards the end, stuttering towards a resolution, it’s the small moments and the small senses of victory, mistake, bittersweet regrets writ large and relationship between a mother and daughter which make Lady Bird such a success.
Likely to be embraced by a generation searching for some kind of heroine of their awkwardness, Lady Bird also wins because its titular character gets by (or not) on her own strengths, and on nobody else’s validations.
Not only one for the hipsters, Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated Lady Bird is an honest film for the generations.
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet
Director: Greta Gerwig