Monday, November 27, 2017

Movie Review: Lady Bird

In one of the funniest films of the year, Greta Gerwig writes and directs about the travails of a teenage girl in Sacramento, California. Christine 'Lady Bird' McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) hopes to make her own path in life despite warnings from her mother Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf). With her father Larry McPherson (Tracy Letts) struggling to keep a job, the expenses of college weigh on Lady Bird. She would like to go to a college on the East coast far from Sacramento but her mother would prefer she stay close. The two of them do not always get along and their arguments escalate so far that Lady Bird throws herself out of the car in the first stunning scene of the film. With her arm in a cast, she attends the senior year of high school at a Catholic school because her adopted brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues) saw someone get stabbed in public school.

Miguel went to Berkeley but has moved back into their parents' home with his wife Shelly (Marielle Scott) to bag groceries. Lady Bird doesn't always fit in at the school but she and her best friend  Julie (Beanie Feldstein) find happiness on the outskirts eating the holy wafers and gossiping about boys and masturbation. Lady Bird meets Danny (Lucas Hedges) while auditioning for a musical and they soon fall in love. She attends his family's Thanksgiving dinner upsetting her mother but seeing what life is like on the wealthier side of the train tracks. However, another boy Kyle (Timothée Chalamet) catches her eye and when Lady Bird stumbles onto Danny making out with another guy in the boys' bathroom, it ends their relationship quickly. Danny struggles to come out to his family and begs Lady Bird not to tell anyone. 

Lady Bird discovers that Kyle is friends Jonah (Daniel Zovatto) who dates Jenna (Odeya Rush), a popular girl. Lady Bird starts to ditch Julie to hang out with Jenna, making her old friend jealous. Meanwhile, she secretly applies to East coast colleges and asks her dad to help her apply for financial aid. Jenna and Lady Bird hit it off after Lady Bird devises a prank on the nuns but Lady Bird lies about her address so pretend like she is richer than her family is. They hang out together and she is able to hook up with Kyle at a party. They wait to have sex but they confess to each other that they haven't had sex before. Lady Bird is suspended when she confronts a guest lecturer about the morality of abortion and Jenna discovers that she lied about her address. She decides to lose her virginity with Kyle but is disgusted to find out that he lied about having sex previously after they do it. Her mother comforts her when she picks her up but she doesn't know what happened. 

Lady Bird still decides to go to prom with Kyle but finds that the group of cool kids wants to skip it. She asks to be dropped off at Julie's apartment and the two of them go to prom together having a great time. Julie has decided to go away to see her father but will return to community college. Lady Bird is on the waitlist for an East coast college so she plans to attend but Danny actually spills the secret to her mother. Marion is pissed at Lady Bird for going behind her back and refuses to talk to her. Lady Bird gets into the college and leaves still having not talked to her mother even though Marion runs after her a little too late after she gets on the plane. Lady Bird decides to use her name Christine when she gets to college and has an experience with over drinking that leaves her in the hospital. She goes to a church and calls her mother leaving her a heartfelt message.

Set over the end of 2002 and early 2003, the Iraq War and other cultural moments like Justin Timberlake of the time serve as a backdrop to Lady Bird's teenage struggle. Only a few years before my own high school graduation, I can relate to the confusion of the time and the pressure to succeed at a young age. The film is immersed in humor and has a such a joyous sense about it that it is hard not to smile throughout various scenes of the film while also seeing the underlying depression of a lot of the characters. Sacramento also serves as an interesting setting as Gerwig seems to know the place well. Ronan, as always, is amazing in her performance especially as she has played in more adult roles recently. Lady Bird should easily be one of the top films of the year. 

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