Lady Bird your given name? Yeah. Then Why is it in quotes? I gave it to myself; It's given to me by me explains Christine 'Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) as she auditions for a role in the school play. The fiercely independent, stubborn and opinionated the high school senior would rather fling herself from a moving car and break her arm over losing an argument to her equally opinionated mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Christine attends a Catholic high school in Sacramento longing to get out of California to go where culture is and pursue higher learning on the East coast while her mother knowing the family finances supporting the family on her nurse's salary as her husband is out of work can only afford local community college for her daughter. The film spans the school year circa 2002. Our heroine has two boyfriends during the span Danny O'Neill (Lucas Hedges) the theatre star golden boy from the right side of the tracks and Timothee Chalamet who had a huge year in 2017 with Call Me By Your Name and Hostiles also under his belt as Kyle the brooding leather jacket wearing anarchist. She also has her ups and downs with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) especially when popular girl Jenna (Odeya Rush) wants to hang out.
The film is very autobiographical of its writer-director Greta Gerwig who grew up in Sacramento, went to Catholic High School, studied in New York and had a mom who was a nurse. Gerwig's manic mannerisms and syntax flow through Ronan as she performs on screen. Her turn of a phrase, nervous ticks and physical movements are reminiscent of Gerwig's characters in Frances Ha or Mistress America. For a first outing Gerwig keeps the project simple sticking to a subject matter she knows on a scale she can control.
Laurie Metcalf does her best attempt to swipe the film as Marion. She is the family breadwinner as warmhearted husband Larry (Tracy Letts) searches for work. Her role is to keep Lady Bird realistic and lower her expectations. The conflict between the pair produces some of the best mother-daughter dialogue on film. The key exchange being Marion's desire for Christine to become the very best version of herself to which Lady Bird counters what if THIS is the best version.
Lady Bird is the classic tale of a teenager finding their voice, seeking their independence as they attempt to step out of the shadow of their parents. Christine McPherson does so first with her name, second with her sexual development and thirdly putting all of her efforts into getting into an East coast school. Her mother takes it as a personal affront but her agonizing attempt to be supportive headlines one of the strongest closing segments in film this year.
**** Out of 4.
Lady Bird | Greta Gerwig | U.S.A. | 2017 | 93 Minutes.
Tags; Sacramento, High School, Theatre, Prom, Anarchy, First Time, Nuns, the Grapes of Wrath.