Thursday, April 12, 2018

Lady Bird: Coming of Age? Human Interest? Or Just a Great Family Film?

Movie Review: Lady Bird (2017)
Version: Library borrow

Lady Bird is an exceptional film with great acting and a fine script. It has the feel of an independent film in which the characters are finely crafted over a deeply woven story. There are many emotional tugs among the many important characters, although Lady Bird is the main character and her main foil is her mother, Marion. So this is bumpy ride from many perspectives. But don't be fooled, Lady Bird isn't a tragedy, it has a happy ending.

The story is about a high school senior in a lower middle class family who yearns for a better, more glamorous life. Her name is Christine but she demands to be called Lady Bird. She is forced to attend a Catholic school but she deeply resents it. Her mother wants her to apply to in-state colleges but she wants attend East Coast Ivy League schools. She all but abandons her lifelong best friend for a shallow rich girl, even pretending to live in a home she has always dreamed was her home to garner acceptance. When she falls head-over-heels in love with Danny O'Neill, she is shocked to find out he is gay, and abandons him for a heart throb who turns out to be nothing like she expects. And then there's Lady Bird's family. Her mother is constantly on her case about achieving more and making better life choices. Her father is on her side, her only real anchor, but her mother berates their relationship. All comes crashing down around Lady Bird as she is forced to make the most important decisions in her life.

This is really a coming of age story, and it's played with great earnest by Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird McPherson. She shows uncertainty and angst, engaging in mischief with ease. Then there's Marion, the embattled mother who takes on the world and the unruly daughter like a real trooper, played by Laurie Metcalf. Few play the irritable, force-of-nature mother like Metcalf. Bayne Gibby is adorable as best friend Casey and Lucas Hedges is interesting as the misunderstood gay Danny. Tracy Letts warms you over as the protective father, Larry. It's a great ensemble cast.

You might think this is a "girl's night out" movie, but it's really a great human interest movie about people who dream of living beyond their limited circumstances and the battle between generations. It would be easy to recast Lady Bird as a guy, changing the character's name, of course, and see the drama play out similarly. As such, this is a drama that families in general can relate to, and I recommend it for anyone with growing teens.

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