Does the world really need yet another coming-of-age flick? Well, when the flick in question is the exquisitely crafted and eminently delightful Lady Bird, the answer is a flat-out “heck yeah.”
Just when you think the genre is tired and there are no more stories to be told, along comes Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut (not to mention last year’s equally endearing The Edge of Seventeen, which inexplicably made barely enough to cover its nine million dollar budget).
A kinda-autobiographical re-telling of Gerwig’s own high school senior year in Sacramento, Lady Bird is as refreshing and unique as they come. Saoirse Ronan is captivating as Christine McPherson (though she claims her given name is Lady Bird—”I gave it to myself. It’s given to me by me.”). She’s a rebellious, complex character who spends her days in Catholic school and the rest of the time going toe-to-toe with her passive-aggressive mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Along the way she’s also dealing with college applications, trying to fit in with the cool kids, and attempting to date the rich, popular boy while at the same time pretending she doesn’t live on the wrong side of the tracks.
Gerwig has created one of those characters that will be studied in film schools for decades to come, and she brings Lady Bird to life (Gerwig also wrote the screenplay) with a voice that is at once resounding and real. Ronan turns in the performance of her young career, which in itself is remarkable considering her luminous turn in Brooklyn just two years back. And Metcalf should already be clearing some mantle space for the onslaught of awards surely headed her way in the next few months.
From first love to prom, there’s very little in the way of teenage flashpoints that Lady Bird doesn’t tackle, doing so in a way that hearkens back to classics like Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful without feeling derivative in the slightest; it’s not hard to imagine the late John Hughes being among Lady Bird’s loudest supporters for its honest and mature approach to the life of an American teenager.
Gerwig’s direction is an immaculate blend of spot-on comic timing (aided by editor Nick Houy’s top-shelf work) and profound yet simple moments of teen angst. Cinematographer Sam Levy, who also worked on the Gerwig-scripted Frances Haand Mistress America, makes Sacramento its own character; and the music completes the package, including Jon Brion’s score and the 90s/00s-infused soundtrack featuring the Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me” and Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River”, among others. (If you haven’t yet seen the letters Gerwig sent to Dave and Justin to get their permission, it’s worth a Google search.)
There’s not a single thing that doesn’t work in Lady Bird; it’s pure magic from beginning to end—a wholly inspired (and inspiring) film that takes an age-old genre and knocks it square off its rocker.