Combustible Celluloid
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With: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Odeya Rush, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott, Jake McDorman, John Karna, Bayne Gibby, Laura Marano
Written by: Greta Gerwig
Directed by: Greta Gerwig
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying
Running Time: 93
Date: 11/10/2017

Lady Bird (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A striking directorial debut by Greta Gerwig, this tender, semi-autobiographical love letter to her hometown of Sacramento explores the gulf between childhood and adulthood with touching, witty humor.

In Lady Bird, Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who has nicknamed herself "Lady Bird," is finishing her senior year at a religious private high school in Sacramento, CA, and prepares to head to college. Her father (Tracy Letts) is unemployed and the family doesn't have money to send her anywhere fancy. Meanwhile, Lady Bird and her mother (Laurie Metcalf) are fighting regularly, about money and nearly everything else.

At school, she joins the theater club to meet a boy she likes, but it doesn't work out. She becomes attracted to a cool musician and his cool friends and is tempted to leave behind her nerdy best friend, Julie (Beanie Feldstein). All the while, she can't seem to stop getting herself into trouble, and can't wait to get out of her hometown. As she cooks up a drastic plan to get to New York, she begins to realize that home is where the heart is.

Gerwig rose to notice writing and acting in "mumblecore" indies, and seemed to find her own voice, and her own persona, in things like Damsels in Distress and Frances Ha. Now she brings that persona, fully-formed, to the nuanced, wonderful Lady Bird. (It resembles Frances Ha, which she co-wrote, in many good ways.) In her role, Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan perfectly adopts Gerwig's trademark sweet/scatterbrain delivery, sprinkling it with soul and humanity.

The movie is more about a time, a state of mind, and an emotional place than it is a story, and Gerwig allows scenes to wander off track, but in a delightful way. Even if they have nothing to do with Lady Bird, scenes sometimes follow secondary characters for no other reason than Gerwig likely found them interesting, or sad, or funny. Not everything is explained.

Special care is given to the mother character, who is no-nonsense, borderline mean, but also truly loving, and Laurie Metcalf gives a fine performance in the role. The overall use of music, cityscape images, and feisty rhythms round out a wonderfully personal, open-hearted movie.

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