Mother-daughter movies come a dime a dozen in Hollywood. Is Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird any special?
The setting: early 2000s. Lady Bird (Saiorse Ronan) is a seventeen-year-old attending a Catholic school in Sacramento, California. College-bound, she’s been scouting for schools with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) around the area, but Lady Bird desperately wants to go to an East Coast college like Yale (but not Yale since it’s very unlikely she would be accepted) since the East Coast is where culture is. Lady Bird’s mother wants her to attend state college, due to financial restrictions and the recent 9/11 attack at New York. The film is about Lady Bird’s last few months of high school, zooming in on her love life and her strained relationship with her mother.
We’ve had a lot of great coming-of-age movies over the years, Easy A, Edge of Seventeen, just to mention a few, and to be honest, I don’t think the that narrative of Lady Bird is above the two I mentioned. What gives Lady Bird an edge over the other movies in the genre are the snappy editing and remarkable performances of the leads. The on-the-mark jokes don’t hurt the movie either.
At its core, Lady Bird is an indie film. It doesn’t really dwell on anything grandiose – it’s the story of a lower-middle-class high school girl wanting something more in life. No big twists, no surprises, it’s just a well-made snapshot of a life of a teenager. It’s very refreshing to see something like this garner wide acclaim. It just proves that you don’t need expensive set pieces to make a great film, you just need great directing and performances. In particular, Ronan and Metcalf deserve great praise.
Saiorse Ronan, in particular, is electric as the rebellious Lady Bird. Most of the time she’s annoying and making all the wrong decisions, but isn’t that how teenagers often are? The movie put realism at the forefront, and Lady Bird, love her or hate her, is infinitely rootable. Ronan is a tremendously terrific actress. I would say her best work is Eilis in 2015’s Brooklyn. She deserved an Oscar then, and I’m elated to see her get her due with Lady Bird.
Is Lady Bird the best film in the awards season? I’d say no. Call Me by Your Name resonated with me more. (It’s jarring to see Timothee Chalamet play such a duffus character in Lady Bird, after seeing his role in CMBYN.) But is Lady Bird a great, well-made film? Yes, it definitely is.