The coming-of-age comedy sub-genre has been quietly shimmying back into style the past few years. It seemed for a while like filmmakers had conceded that no one was up for trying to top – or even equal – John Hughes, but after last year’s fantastic The Edge of Seventeen and now Greta Gerwig’s phenomenal Lady Bird, it’s time to get the word out that this genre is in capable hands. Gerwig has undoubtedly aimed Lady Bird at “older” millennials now in their thirties (read: me) whose late teenage years revolved around Dave Matthews Band and 24/7 fears about the Iraq War. But Lady Bird is far more than a nostalgia trip; its witty screenplay is filled with realized characters and targeted observations on the most common thread among us all as we prepare to enter adulthood: out-of-control personal insecurities.
Saoirse Ronan plays Christine McPherson, better known to her peers as “Lady Bird,” mainly because she insists people call her that. She’s a seventeen-year-old attending Catholic school in Sacramento, California. Her brother and his live-in girlfriend haven’t amounted to much, her relationship with her mother (Metcalf) is strained, and her dad (Letts) is so nice he’s seen as nothing more than a pushover by her mom. Lady Bird has bigger aspirations. She intends to get accepted to an east coast college and start her life anew. But first she has to survive the rest of high school. The film follows her adventures with a prospective boyfriend (Hedges), a possibly new and cooler boyfriend (Chalamet), her best friend (Beanie Feldstein), a possibly new and cooler best friend (Odeya Rush), and the stress of applying to college.
Admittedly light on plot, Gerwig takes a slice-of-life approach that proves witty, concise, hilarious, and heartfelt. Delving beyond topical anxieties, Gerwig places Lady Bird and her family on the “wrong side of the tracks” and riffs on the class warfare that exists in every school. Gerwig pays off the quirks in each of her characters brilliantly in a touching final scene that brings everything full circle. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) continues to do no wrong in an energetic, playful turn as the title character. Laurie Metcalf is also fantastic as Lady Bird’s mother, convincingly dealing with the eccentricities of her daughter while trying to keep the family together in trying times. But Gerwig’s script is the real star. It’s a warm hug reminder that things can – and will – turn out fine no matter how bleak life feels sometimes. The best films of this genre (pick a John Hughes movie from his 80’s heyday) always show a path and provide a takeaway for being a better person. Lady Bird does just that.
Length: 93 Minutes
Rating: R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying.
Theatrical Release: November 3, 2017
Directed by: Greta Gerwig
Written by: Greta Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet