Lady Bird (2017) Director: Greta Gerwig
“We’re afraid that we will never escape our past.”
Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut Lady Bird is a semi-autobiographical delightful comedy film with more than a hint of nostalgia for long-lost youth. Saoirse Ronan gives a pitch-perfect performance as Christine MacPherson, a somewhat rebellious graduating senior at a Catholic High School in Sacramento. She longs to escape her mundane life in the bland “midwest of California” and move to a city with culture on the east coast for college. The film speaks to a certain relatable restlessness universal among all adolescents. We witness her struggles with her mother, underwhelming romances (such as with Kyle played by Timothée Chalamet), and her self-appointed nickname “Lady Bird.” This coming-of-age tale weaves through several of Christine’s friends, her experience at prom and other awkward moments in high school, and in the end she flies away to college in New York but her impulsive decision-making quickly catches up to her as she immediately succumbs to alcohol poisoning. The film ends as Christine weeps in a church reflecting on her youth as she now sees it slowly slipping away from her. She leaves a heartfelt voicemail for her mother thanking her for everything. In the end, youth is wasted on the young.
Gerwig apparently spent many years writing this charming script under the working title of “Mothers and Daughters.” On the set during production, she distributed her old yearbooks and pictures from high school to offer inspiration. Lady Bird is one of those rare movies that offers a simple narrative (albeit it with plenty of distinct episodes) but it does so without cliche –in a way it reminded me of Silver Linings Playbook, another quirky bittersweet comedy for our time. Lady Bird is yet again a victory for A24 in my book and is likely to be a terrific sign of good things to come for director Greta Gerwig.