Lady Bird

Christine McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan, is a high school senior who lives in Sacramento.  And she’s not happy about it.  In fact she’s not happy about much, including her given name which she changes to Lady Bird.  Like every teenager she has these inarticulate longings that often contradict each other.  She wants to go far away to the east coast for college but she’s also trying to get romantically involved with a couple of boys.  But unlike a lot of teens she’s smart and determined enough to actually get what she wants and hold it until she realizes that it doesn’t help.

Her family is a little dysfunctional with a sullen brother, Miguel, played by Jordan Rodrigues, and his equally sullen live in girlfriend.  Her father, Larry, played by Tracy Letts, just lost his job and he’s having a hard time finding another one at his age so finances are strapped.  Needless to say this adds to Lady Bird’s dissatisfaction.

And then there’s Lady Bird’s mother, Marion, played by Laurie Metcalf.  Marion is trying to force Lady Bird into maturity by constantly pointing out when she is being selfish or foolish.  Of course all that really accomplishes is Lady Bird stubbornly clinging to her immaturity.  It’s a classic case of parent and child being too much alike to get along.  Metcalf easily delivers the best performance in the film.  Even when she says the meanest things, she somehow gets across that it is done with love.  And when Lady Bird really needs her mother to be understanding, she delivers.

When it comes to the lead, writer/director Greta Gerwig directed Ronan to act in much same manner as Gerwig does, smart and quirky.  It’s like when Woody Allen’s male leads remind you of a younger Woody Allen.  When you read Gerwig’s bio on IMDB, you can tell that this story is probably autobiographical.

So I hate to report that I had trouble getting into it and it had a lot to do with the main character.  This is a story about a young girl maturing which means that for most of the film, she’s immature and frankly not very likeable.  This may be realistic and is almost certainly a choice on Gerwig’s part.  However, it doesn’t make for an enjoyable movie.  Lady Bird’s quirkiness isn’t charming enough to overcome the distaste resulting from her actions, some of which cross into dishonesty.  When things go wrong, she stoically accepts the consequences but she never really atones.

There are some very funny moments in the film, and when you consider that it’s Gerwig’s first feature it is impressive, but it really didn’t hang together for me.


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