Movie Review: “Lady Bird” – A Dream-like Mirror

Written by Jeremiah Greville January 04, 2018

Lady Bird

I’m a man – hey there – and I watched Lady Bird in a theatre with my mother for our Christmas tradition. Neither of us knew much about the film going in, except that it had received rave reviews. Turns out, it’s a film about mothers and daughters. And shockingly enough—apart from a gender switch—about the two of us. There’s a special, low-key magic to this film that makes me suspect several people will feel the same way. It’s universal, but never overstated. This is film that’s so real it almost feels dreamlike, and so charming it’s hard to let go. Lady Bird is a special film that deserves all the praise that can be heaped upon it.

I wasn’t joking when I said that this movie was about my mother and I. That may sound weird, but it’s due to writer-director Greta Gerwig’s inspired take on relationships. Lady Bird makes it feel like Gerwig has stolen something private and put in on display. Only the real magic is making you realize just how public it was all along. The emotions, the turmoil, the sanctimony and honest love is all real. It’s incredible. So in critiquing this film I feel as if I’m critiquing myself—my own family. But that’s what makes this movie so memorable. Gerwig has cracked a code through her unique lens and allowed us to see ourselves in her world. If this movie has a message, it’s that you’re not alone.

“You’re giving me an eating disorder!”

Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a high school senior in Sacramento, California. It co-stars the incredible Laurie Metcalf as her mother, Marion. That’s really all you need to know going in. The plot of Lady Bird is secondary to the characters. It’s a coming-of-age story about a girl and her mother. Lady Bird wants to leave Sacramento, and her mother Marion wants her to stay. What makes the movie memorable isn’t the plot, but the way it presents its characters and their relationships. Nobody is the bad guy, no misunderstanding is contrived. Lady Bird is young and impetuous, but never cloying or needlessly antagonistic. Marion is overworked and often cold, but never uncaring or unsympathetic. The characters are real, and the plot simply follows them.

Lady Bird

Like Get Out, from earlier this year, Lady Bird is another film written and directed by someone who’s not a white dude. It’s a movie by a woman, about women. And yes, I—a white dude—identify with it. How does that happen? Here’s your answer: Gerwig tells her own story honestly. While not explicitly about herself, Lady Bird borrows several elements from Gerwig’s life. And because they’re not filtered through cultural expectation or male gaze, those elements ring true. There’s an old quote by psychologist Carl R. Rogers: “what is most personal is most universal.” It’s been an oft-shared writing adage for ages, and is true here again. It’s an open secret that Hollywood only just seems to be learning—and slowly.

“First one to cry wins.”

The cultural impact of Lady Bird was felt strongest recently when, for a short time, it held a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s important to recognize that a tomatometer score is different from a critical score, but that doesn’t lessen the incredible accomplishment. If you plan on seeing it, please keep this in mind. Universally beloved doesn’t mean perfect, but universally loved things are usually loved for a reason. Funny enough, this exact point is made during the film in a pivotal scene. That quote from Carl R. Rogers above? It’s from a book called “On Becoming a Person.” According to Gerwig herself, the question of Lady Bird should be: “is [Lady Bird] going to occupy her personhood?”

lady-bird-laurie-metcalf

Laurie Metcalf and Saiorse Ronan spar gracefully as the at-odds mother-daughter pair. Lady Bird would not soar as it does without the charisma and charm that Ronan brings to the lead character. And Lady Bird, the character, wouldn’t stand without Metcalf’s put-upon Marion holding her own in each scene. Both performances are timeless and will certainly garner plenty of awards attention. The supporting cast are great as well, but not as noteworthy. Tracy Letts is lovable in the background as Lady Bird’s depressed and out-of-work father, Larry. And Lucas Hedges marks another solid performance in an Oscar-bait film following Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Manchester by the Sea.

“If you had boobs, I wouldn’t touch them either.”

The only real flaw I can identify with Lady Bird comes in the form of the act structure and story pacing. It’s a tale that you never really want to leave, but along with several recent movies, doesn’t signal when you will. The final scene only announces its arrival as it ends. From a narrative perspective, it’s a wonderful way to end the film. But from a structural perspective, more could’ve been done to get there. This is a nitpick of the nitpickiest order, however. Lady Bird is an incredible, impeccable film, and the ending doesn’t detract in the slightest. It’s small, intimate, and imperfect—just like Lady Bird’s Sacramento.

Lady Bird

Lady Bird is a movie that has flown somewhat under the radar with general audiences, but will certainly live long in general discussion. It’s a landmark film for women filmmakers in a time where more people are starting to take notice. Its intimate truth makes it universal and identifiable. And the central performances by Ronan and Metcalf are some of the best mother and daughter roles ever put to film. I took my mother to see it in theatres, and apart from an incredibly awkward sex scene, it was a good decision. It’s the type of film many people can see themselves in, and if you’re interested at all, check it out while it’s still in theatres.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Lady Bird Poster

 

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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