Lady Bird | Greta Gerwig | NYFF 2017
It’s hard to believe that Lady Bird is the directorial debut from Greta Gerwig, who knocks it out of the park in a masterful fashion as if she had been directing for a good decade or more. In many ways Gerwig has been preparing for this moment throughout her career, working with many great directors throughout her career as an actress. She has started to branch out more as a writer in recent years, co-writing the scripts for Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha and Mistress America, the latter which she also produced. So all roads seem to have been leading Gerwig down this path, yet even so it’s amazing just how fully realized and accomplished of a feature debut that Lady Bird is.
Lady Bird is Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) a wildly different teenage girl who asks for those around her to call her Lady Bird and settles arguments with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) by literally jumping out of a moving car and breaking her arm in the process in the films absolutely genius and hilarious opening scene. This scene sets the tone in the tense love/hate relationship that Lady Bird shares with her mom, who is just as strong-willed as her, just in a tough love sort of fashion. Her father Larry (Tracy Letts) is the total opposite, a sweet and loving man who wants to avoid any confrontation at all costs. They live modestly in Sacramento with her brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues) and his girlfriend Shelly (Marielle Scott). We follow Lady Bird during her senior year at a Catholic high school where she kills time with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) and falls in love with Danny (Lucas Hedges) a fellow member of the schools play that Lady Bird joins.
It’s these everyday moments that Gerwig captures with such a passionate authenticity that feels truly lived in and familiar. We were all in high school at some point and no matters your gender, the problems that Lady Bird encounter are universal and true and painted with a sincere warmth by Gerwig that feels so personal and true from a real place of self. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Gerwig grew up in where else but Sacramento, so it’s safe to assume that a lot of this was pulled from her own experiences as a teenager and it certainly feels personal and true in the best way possible.
The core of the movie is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mom. They can never quite seem to get on the same page or please one another, yet at the same time their love is unwavering and its so clear they care for each other even though their relationship seems as fractured as they come.
This is played to perfection by both Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf who play off of one another to perfection. It’s clear to me that Saoirse Ronan is far and away one of the best actors of this generation and it’s amazing to see how raw and vulnerable she is in this role, one that isn’t quite glamorous but one that she pulls off with an electric energy that she knocks out of the park. The same can be said about veteran theater actor Metcalf who gives off an absolutely fierce and piercing performance that is the Ying to Lady Bird’s Yang. It’s also hard not to admire the great work across the board from the talented supporting cast, featuring outstanding work from Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, and Timothée Chalamet.
This is a wildly entertaining film that wears its heart on its sleeve and has something to say without ever being preachy. Not only is it one of the funniest films of the year, but it also finds ways to stop you dead in your tracks and break your heart only mere seconds after you were wiping away different tears from a good hard-earned laugh. The way that Gerwig is able to masterfully switch gears and tones in such a confident way is a stunning achievement, one that results in what very well may be the best damn film of 2017.