New York Film Festival Review: Lady Bird

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What a difference tone and rich, layered details can have on a fairly ordinary story. Lady Bird, the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, walks the delicate balance between being deeply personal and widely relatable. That is to say, it is a film that’ll make you laugh in big, fun ways while also seemingly robbing the privacy out of the tumultuous, angsty psyche you left behind after high school. That’s because the tone Gerwig strikes with her script and direction grounds itself in reality while pushing its limits into something borderline absurdist.

Doubling as a portrait of Gerwig’s home town of Sacramento, Lady Bird takes place just after 9/11 and follows Christine (Saoirse Ronan), somewhat rebelliously calling herself “Lady Bird”, through her senior year of high school. That means an unstable friendship with her charmingly nerdy best friend (Beanie Feldstein), the awkward, forced romances of high school, college applications, and tense parental relations (Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts).

But this honest, expertly written story gives weight to what these 18-year-olds experience and the effects it’ll have on the rest of their lives. It’s most notable avenue for this is Lady Bird’s relationship with her mother. “You both have such strong personalities,” her father says late in the film. How minute details make them clash, but celebratory moments big and small bring them back together, sometimes in a matter of seconds, is among the most real things put on film this year. It also helps that Ronan and Metcalf give incredible, specific depth to their archetypal characters. Lady Bird is more of a coming of age story than a mother-daughter movie, but how the two inform each other proves to be masterfully human storytelling.

But ultimately, Lady Bird is about finding your place in the world by finding your place in yourself. By giving herself a name not chosen by her parents, she thinks she’s taking some control of who she is, when really she’s only suffocating everything that’s gotten her to where she is now. The film features parental figures who are still trying to figure it all out themselves too. Gerwig’s point appears to be that perfection is impossible, but that life can be pretty beautiful anyway, making it with a fiery wit and a strong emotional core. Give it a few years, Lady Bird could gain a legacy every bit as significant as any John Hughes movie. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

One Response to New York Film Festival Review: Lady Bird

  1. […] we’re putting it here because it’s undeniably one of the best of the year so far (our review). Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, about a girl (Saoirse Ronan) coming of age in the […]

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