Right off the bat, let me say that Lady Bird (2017) is one of, if not the best movie I have seen this year. Immediately after leaving the theater, the only movie that stuck out as much as it is Christopher Nolan’s perfectly-paced Dunkirk (2017).
We all know the praise that Lady Bird has gotten. My cousin made his thoughts known on the movie (Kenney’s Take) just last week and echoed the admiration for it. I am not going to be able to say anything new or groundbreaking that critics haven’t already pointed out, but here is just a brief overview of my thoughts.
Lady Bird is the best coming of age story since Richard Linklater’s epic Boyhood (2014). Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is hands down the most memorable performance by an actress I have seen thus far this year. Laurie Metcalf delivers an enactment so wrought with emotion that it’ll bring you to tears. And the fact that Greta Gerwig’s first directorial experience is this good…let this be a perfect sign for more things to come.
The setting of Sacramento in the year 2002 is a very unique atmosphere. Listening to an interview with Gerwig on The Ringer’s Podcast Network show “The Big Picture” hosted by Sean Fennessey, the two highlight how the context is a perfect fit between two generations.
The first generation includes the parents and elders who grew up in a world without massive fear and paranoia, but then had learn how to live in a truly different mindset through cultured eyes. This is what makes Metcalf’s performance as Christine’s mother so perfect. Lady Bird is a uniquely-souled individual who wants to fly away from the stereotypes, and Marion has to constantly battle and try and keep her daughter from venturing out into depths she doesn’t fully comprehend.
Lady Bird grew up having experienced the events of 9/11 and national economic downturn while trying to comprehend herself as an individual. She has a hard time grasping that, as all people do, she as a single person is rather small in the larger scope. She experiences her first crush, her first kiss, losing her virginity and embarrassment of her family thinking that she is a soldier fighting through alone on the path the maturity. As Lady Bird unfolds, we see Lady Bird herself come to grips with different situations and gradually come to compromise her acceptance with her upbringing with her desire to spread her wings.
In one of the final moments of the movie, we get a reminder that no matter how profoundly we think we’ve learned a lesson, there are setbacks along the way. Christine doubles-back on saying she is from Sacramento and instead claims her homestead is the more well-known city of San Francisco. Ronan is able to emote the subtle guilt of this white lie, and it’s a feeling we all have experienced.
Lady Bird blends comedy with real life trauma in a bevy of ways, but none better than when Lady Bird loses her virginity to her classmate Kyle, played by Timothée Chalamet. In a stereotypical high school awkward sex scene, you see the confusion, pride, and vulnerability that goes into the huge decision to take that life step. After the actual sex, Lady Bird has a realization about Kyle that leads to one of the best one-liner digs I can remember. I won’t spoil it here, but it just fits the tone of Lady Bird the character, and movie, in a perfect way.
Not enough credit can be paid to Ronan and Metcalf for their two performances. The final 20 minutes of the movie is a gut-wrenching battle between a daughter and mother trying to understand one another and what it takes to find mutual respect and appreciation.
High school is a time of transition for everyone. Lady Bird extenuates the personal journeys we all must go through and how every single person’s path of self-discovery and acceptance is different. Lady Bird is 94 minutes of beautiful movie-making that everyone should see.
Stanko Rating: A