Rated: R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: November 17, 2017 Released by: A24 Films
This writing/directing outing from actress Greta Gerwig (Jackie, 20th Century Women) - her first full-fledged one - is a true American original.
Her Lady Bird starring an outstanding Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn, Loving Vincent, Hanna) explores the adolescent experience with all of its awkwardness in ways that consistently entertain.
It's kind of bookended around Ronan's Christine (dubbing herself the film's moniker) and her exasperated, tireless, no-nonsense nurse mom Marion (a wonderful Laurie Metcalf of Toy Story 3, Stop-Loss) around a college trip. This daughter/mother relationship is fractious in a grief/loving way as father/husband (playwright Tracy Letts of The Lovers, Indignation) is suffering from the current economic landscape circa 2002. Like every teen Christine wants to be liked and is curious about boys. She's in a private Catholic girls high school, one of the few of a less than affluent status. And, is looking to head off to post-secondary liberal schooling in the Big Apple.
Ronan displays a realistic, relatable off-center depth to a solipsistic young woman synonymous with characters played awhile back by Thora Birch and Julia Stiles who has the ability to find a literacy or balance in Lady Bird's topsy-turvy milieu. But, she'll go through a lot with those like neglected best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Jonah Hill's sister) who has a crush on her math teacher. Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea) and Timothee Chalamut (of the upcoming Call Me By Your Name) have their specific qualities that she latches onto while of course fretting about sex.
Lady Bird isn't tethered to any particular aspect of this coming-of-age as the precocious protagonist has her flighty, spirited moments as well as painful ones. The sharp-wittedness is countered well with growth, loss and love as Ronan would appear to be an ideal surrogate for Gerwig whose sure-handedness (of a vet) lets the material distinctively and flippantly breathe (especially when it comes to the smart writing). All of the period trappings in a "soul-less, Midwest of California" Sacramento are accessible from the blasé technology to the baggy pants. With some spry pacing by editor Nick Houy that adds up to a quite mature, thoroughly engaging look at an early post-9/11 world.