Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Review: Saoirse Ronan dominates in the delightful "Lady Bird"

Lady Bird Review

There are comes a time in every man and every woman’s life. That time when they are on the brink of becoming adults, yet they are still so young at the same time. There comes a time when every man and every woman come of age. The time when you argue with your parents about everything, you tell yourself you don’t need them, even though you blatantly do. There comes a time when you shy around the opposite sex, except for the person you like, in which you can’t stop talking and talking. Maybe you discover that you’re gay, and it’s exciting as you explore your curiosity and attractions, yet scary because how are you going to explain that to your parents, or the girlfriend/boyfriend you happen to have? There is a time when you are determined to leave the one-horse town you grew up in and find your dream college, only to find out that the city you grew up in, no matter how much you may hate it, is apart of you, etching a piece of itself in your heart.

Movies about young people coming of age are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere. We’ve seen so many variations of this formula that most movies in this sub-genre become just that: formulaic. So why am I so delighted by “Lady Bird?” It’s just like all the other coming of age movies, right? Wrong. At least, I feel it’s different from other films. You may not, and that may gauge how you end up feeling about “Lady Bird.” But I think writer and director Greta Gerwig did was take a fairly recognizable story and revamp it completely, until it looked like something miraculously different.

Christine (Saoirse Ronan) goes by Lady Bird. She has got all of her friends, all of her family and even her teachers at a staunch religious high school to call her Lady Bird. She’s the typical teenager we find in these movies. She’s discovering that she likes boys, she is constantly at odds with her mother (Laurie Metcalf), she wants to desperately to get out of Sacramento, her hometown, even though her grades aren’t good enough and her parents can’t afford to take her anywhere else for college. She finds that she has to be the center of attention, even though she is nowhere near the cool crowd at her high school. She’s a girl that so desperately wants to be independent that she now goes by the name Lady Bird. The movie is her senior year, from the beginning to the first day she lands in college. She is tormented by this year, she is strengthened by this year and the person she is at the beginning of the movie is not the same person we see calling her parents at a crucial moment right before the credits roll.

Sound familiar? It might to some depending on what you have and haven’t seen. But what makes “Lady Bird” such a joy to watch is how Greta Gerwig deconstructs the expectations of this genre. The film is really funny, but not in a teen comedy way. There is budding romance in the film, but not in a sappy way. The kids that populate this movie aren’t spitting silly jokes or one-liners. They are regular kids, with their own ticks and mannerisms. With their own growing insecurities. Desperate to feel something. There is not one time when Greta forgets about the human factor each of these characters must possess. The film is organically funny, and organically emotional. Nothing ever feels manufactured.

What Gerwig also does well is cast the right people for the right roles. There would be nothing about “Lady Bird” worth recommending if Lady Bird herself wasn’t likable. So, it’s a good thing Ronan does such a fine job portraying, easily besting any of her already powerful past work. Laurie Metcalf seems hellbent on besting her in every scene they share, and together they create two lionesses, interlocked in this game of arguments. The film is full of recognizable faces, all of whom do incredible work at every turn.

Alas, the secret weapon to the film is relatability. The film is so relatable. I can’t say that every teen comedy or coming-of-age movie is relatable. We are so used to people not behaving like actual human beings in these movies that they’ve never been relatable. But Gerwig forces us to find a connection to someone in the film, asking us to put a piece of ourselves in each of these characters in order for them to be complete. It’s an amazing miracle watching “Lady Bird,” which is why I enjoyed it so much. 


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