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‘Lady Bird’ review: Funny, poignant and simple

A still from ‘Lady Bird’.

A still from ‘Lady Bird’.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut celebrates the oft misunderstood but universal mother-daughter dynamic

Lady Bird is an unconventional coming-of-age film, one that doesn’t leave you with the fuzzy contentment. It’s nostalgic for something you mightn’t even have experienced. This writer doesn’t recognise Sacramento’s environs, but Lady Bird uses the American town as a metaphor for any young adult's growing pains. It’s one of Greta Gerwig’s many talents, which also includes her elfin charm in portraying complicated women on screen. With her brilliant directorial debut, the Sacramento-born 34-year-old pays tribute to her family and hometown with painstaking detail, attention and compassion.

Gerwig’s heroine is a teenage version of herself yearning for culture and a chance to study at a New York school. Is ‘Lady Bird’ Christine McPherson’s (Saoirse Ronan) given name? Yes, it is. She gave it to herself, we’re boldly told during a high school theatre audition. She’s the only one who’s wearing red lipstick and a dress, all her peers have stayed in their Catholic school uniforms. While chronicling Lady Bird’s coming of age, the film simultaneously dissects the intimate yet complicated relationship between a mother and daughter, both equally headstrong.

Lady Bird
  • Director: Greta Gerwig
  • Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Stephen McKinley Henderson
  • Storyline: Lady Bird’s last year at home before college is fraught with teenage problems and a complicated relationship with her mother.

Lady Bird’s mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) can passive aggressively taunt her daughter for dragging her feet, chide her for using one too many towels after a shower and even tell her she’s only good enough for community college. But her unwavering love is indisputable despite her hard spirit. Metcalf narrows her lips into an angry slit, and quivers the same mouth in anguish to depict how complicated and fragile life is.

Marion has had it hard but only wants the best she can provide for her daughter. She’ll stay up altering a dress so Lady Bird can shine at Thanksgiving with her boyfriend. In turn, Lady Bird will yell at never wanting to speak to Marion but also defend her parenting to outsiders who say anything otherwise. As the film’s protagonist is 23-year-old Ronan who makes her difficult and precocious character lovable. She’ll shamelessly dump her real friends for a cooler crowd, fiercely and unapologetically chase her desires, but also tearfully apologise when she’s wrong. How could you not love these two? Both are trying their hardest.

All Gerwig’s characters have been kindly etched out. Take for example, Father Leviatch (Stephen McKinley Henderson). His limited screen time as Lady Bird’s drama teacher, is enough to pack in the gravity and suffering of being a man of the cloth whose faith falters for mysterious reasons.

Lady Bird then seems to have no supporting cast, simply real people living real lives in front of an audience of voyeurs. It helps that Gerwig perfectly recreates the early noughties with bellbottomed pants and loose sweaters. The film’s almost sepia-toned cinematography and affecting soundtrack including the emo Dave Matthews Band song ‘Crash’ only heighten its wistful atmosphere.

Lady Bird is funny and poignant for all the right reasons. It’s a simple story without cinematic flourish but plenty of heart.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 1:17:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/lady-bird-review-growing-pains/article22908638.ece

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