Greta Gerwig brings her origin story to the screen
Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Opens Friday 24
Probably because of her unassuming nature and low-key film ventures, Greta Gerwig has gone unnoticed by the mainstream. Her most high-profile effort, an ill-advised remake of Arthur, bombed spectacularly.
This has been to our gain.
Gerwig has been at the center of great art-house movies (Maggie’s Plan, 20th Century Women) and the definitive millennial film, Frances Ha. Now, she brings her first solo directorial effort, the semi-autobiographical dramedy Lady Bird.
Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is a high-school senior whose dreams may be beyond her academic and economic reach. “Lady Bird” has a contentious relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) whom she sees as her main obstacle to escaping Sacramento. Self-involved to the extreme, the teen is oblivious to her parents’ problems as well as the casual damage she inflicts.
This isn’t to say “Lady Bird” is hateful. A bit of an outcast, Christine joins the drama club and unexpectedly finds a boyfriend and hangs out with the popular kids, both new experiences which, unsurprisingly, are set up to fall apart.
Lady Bird is a character study about a teen discovering she’s not the center of the universe (it’s not an indictment, but a common realization). The key relationship is the one between Christine and her mom, both strong-willed women with valid points of view who don’t listen to each other.
Lady Bird has a cast of overachievers — including up-and-comers Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name) and Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), and theatre vets Tracy Letts and Lois Smith. Saoirse Ronan brings back the prickly personality that first got her noticed in Atonement. The standout is Laurie Metcalf as the overwhelmed mother losing control of her youngest. Somehow, she conveys pride, pain, anger and love simultaneously.
In one line, Lady Bird is the film The Edge of Seventeen wishes it was: So true to life, it hurts. I can’t say I subscribe to all the superlative reviews the movie is getting (it’s a solid flick but hardly the reinvention of the wheel).
Then again, I’m not nor have I ever been a teenage girl.