‘Lady Bird’ Review
Brian Boylen | Friday, December 1, 2017
The diversity of human experience is vast, yet there is a fundamental commonality that binds us all. “Lady Bird” taps into this notion, and is able to perform the impressive act of crafting a universally appealing story by focusing on specific people, in a specific place, at a specific point in time. I am not exaggerating when I use the phrase “universal appeal” either. “Lady Bird” has broken the record previously held by “Toy Story 2” for the most-reviewed film to retain a 100 percent approval rating on the site Rotten Tomatoes. The film is the directorial debut of actor/screenwriter Greta Gerwig, known for works such as “Frances Ha” and last year’s “Jackie.” I — along with students at other colleges — was fortunate enough to be able to ask Gerwig questions about the film on a conference call.
“Lady Bird” is set in Sacramento — Gerwig’s hometown — and centers on the life of high-school senior Christine McPherson, or, as she wishes to be called, Lady Bird. Fantastically portrayed by Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird is your average 17-year-old trying to discover who she is and where she belongs. Lady Bird would abhor the description of average or typical, as she attempts to parade her individuality at any given moment — no surprise coming from a girl who insists on being called Lady Bird. It is this fiery, self-asserting (and naïve) nature that contributes to her strained relationship with her no-nonsense mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Their combative yet loving relationship is intricately detailed throughout the film. They will burst into a fight over something as simple as an audiobook, and resolve a fight just as easily by finding the perfect dress. Gerwig has called this mother-daughter relationship the love story of the film, a description which is immediately evident. Gerwig says she is drawn to these types of stories of female relationships, as can be seen in her roles in films such as “Frances Ha,” in particular because these relationships are not represented as often in Hollywood.
If I have given the notion that that the film is solely focused on this one relationship, then I apologize, as this could not be further from the truth. Much of the appeal of “Lady Bird” comes from its rich and diverse cast. Lady Bird’s interactions with the people around her as she goes about the daily life of a high school senior — with all of the math tests, dances and parties that entails — serve effortlessly to grant the audience deeper insight into Lady Bird’s mind, as well as into everyone else’s. Even minor characters feel like real people with their own lives and their own problems, never like mere plot devices in Lady Bird’s life. From her kind-hearted yet troubled father (Tracy Letts), to her good-guy boyfriend Danny (Lucas Hedges,) her bad-boy boyfriend Kyle (Timothee Chalamet) and even the religious faculty in her Catholic high school, the characters always have a distinct humanness to them, which invites the audience to identify with them. The characters truly take on a life of their own, a result of Gerwig’s approach in crafting this world. She wanted to create something personal, something dear to her own heart. This is why she chose her hometown of Sacramento as the setting — it is a place she knows intimately and is able to bring to life on screen. She states that nothing that happens on screen is directly adapted from her own experiences, but admits that she will hide something real in characters you wouldn’t expect. Whatever her process, it clearly works, as I can’t remember the last time I saw a film with so many emotionally compelling characters.
The movie remains emotionally gripping yet lighthearted throughout, with plenty of scenes inspiring laugh-out loud laughter, often due to the characters’ unwavering dedication to their quirks. Lady Bird’s boyfriend Kyle in particular provided for many hilarious scenes, due to his aloof, edgy personality. Everything that came out of Kyle’s mouth sounded like what one would say if they were portraying a caricature of the cool loner-intellectual type — yet it works. Although much of what he says is absurd and borders on parody, such as when he expresses his distaste for money and claims to use bartering for most transactions, there is something distinctly relatable. We all know a Kyle, or even have a bit of Kyle in us. This goes for many of the characters in the film, and is why “Lady Bird” is so accessible. Although their behaviors are dramatized from real life, it is easy to connect with where they are coming from.
There is something for everyone in “Lady Bird.” Its nature is perfectly conducive to its accomplishment in being the best-rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes. Gerwig’s aim was not to create a rich-yet-divisive film, but to beautifully portray the all-inclusive challenges of growing up. To me, it would be a monumental task to not love “Lady Bird.”
Gerwig gave the simple advice to always follow your curiosity. I, for one, can’t wait to see where her curiosity brings her next.