Director: Greta Gerwin
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, Stephen McKinley Henderson
Written by: Greta Gerwin
Running Time: 94 mins
Release date: 23rd February 2018
There has been a great deal of critical positivity about Greta Gerwin’s solo directorial debut, Lady Bird, a coming-of-age tale. With award nominations and success and almost every critic falling over themselves to tell us how good it is, I tried to see the film with an open mind. What I saw was not a film that, as many have said is a masterpiece but an honest tale of a young girl battling with her matriarchal mother that was perfectly fine.
Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson is a high school girl in her final year at the school which she never really liked. In her senior year, she dreams of going to college on the east coast, escaping from her Sacramento hometown and particularly, her mother. In that year, she falls in love, takes part in a school production and battles with her mother about her choice of college. All the while, she wants her independence.
The film starts off strong. A scene with Lady Bird and Marion MacPherson driving back from a college expedition that ends up with the teenager throwing herself from the moving car. From that point on, actress turned director Gerwin takes us on a free-flowing journey of a young girl transferring from senior at high school to future college girl, wanting to leave the nest and no longer have her mother breathing down her neck and no longer wanting to stay close to her hometown.
Many have said they haven’t seen a coming-of-age like it. An honest, personal film with many can relate to. A film about the bitterness between a mother and a teenage daughter. Dealing with a young girl at the crossroads of her life, facing those difficulties such as falling in love and being crushed; the treatment of friends when love gets in the way, even how to cope in school when its the last place you want to be.
Yet there have been hundreds of coming-of-age films that have dealt with these subjects. Maybe not as forthright as this does but certainly the films of John Hughes and Juno are just as important and, in some cases, been done better. Gregory’s Girl, Bill Forsyth’s teenage tale of the awkwardness of growing up, I think, is a far superior film.
I can understand that this is more aimed towards the female audience, with a particular effect of the relationship between mother and daughter and the conflicts that they occasionally face but Gerwin’s plotless film that are a succession of scenes following Lady Bird throughout a year is often hard to grasp and, if I’m honest, slightly annoying. You long for a plot device to kick in so you can really emote with her plight. Where the film works for me are the scenes between Lady Bird and her placid father. These scenes are often delightful and sweet-natured.
Having said that, the performances are very strong. Saoirse Ronan is outstanding as the title character, a girl with conflicting emotions and feelings. Ronan is both refreshing and honest in her portrayal and it’s always a delight to be in her company. Laurie Metcalf is also terrific as her mother, a woman who comes across as embittered but behind the facade is full of love for her daughter. Tracy Letts counterbalances Metcalf’s mother as her besotted father whose daughter is a star in his eye.
Lady Bird is a fine film with good intentions and its heart is certainly in the right place. It’s just hard to see why the critical response has been so incredible. It’s fine but almost instantly forgettable and you start thinking about all the other teen dramas out there that are just as good, even better.