Lady Bird takes flight and soars to heights most films merely dream of reaching.
Written and directed – her solo debut behind the camera – by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan, the coming-of-age tale examines the tumultuous life of a teenage girl living in California in the early 2000s.
It is a profoundly moving cinematic experience, both hilarious and, at times, heartbreaking, that will surely rank among the year’s best movies.
Ronan plays a girl named Christine but she prefers the self-appointed moniker of ‘Lady Bird’, much to the chagrin of her overworked and frenetic mother, played wonderfully by Laurie Metcalf. Lady Bird dreams of attending a prestigious east coast college but, in the meantime, will have to bide her time at a Catholic high school.
Throughout the course of a year she navigates the dizzying highs and crushing lows that come with being a young adult. Along the way the precocious Christine makes and loses a few friends, struggles to find common ground with her mom, and basically tries to figure out what the hell she’s going to do with her life.
For all intents and purposes Lady Bird is a virtually flawless examination of family and adolescence. It is a staggering achievement, underscored immensely by the fact that this is Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut (she co-directed 2008’s Nights and Weekends with Joe Swanberg).
Her keen grasp on the craft of filmmaking is impressive and exciting. She may not be a veteran yet but Gerwig’s immense skills set displayed here ensures a long and storied career as a director.
In addition to the movie’s surefire direction, Gerwig’s own screenplay is supremely powerful. The razor-sharp dialogue, spoken at times in almost staccato-like fashion by the various actors, cuts directly to the underlying themes and character motivations. Lady Bird’s screenplay is simply brilliant in its efficiency and its often acerbic wit makes for maximum poignancy with a generous helping of humour.
But scripts are only as good as the actors who deliver the lines and that brings us to Saoirse Ronan. Simply put, she is an onscreen force to be reckoned with. It’s actually mind-boggling, at 23 years of age, just how good she is.
Completely losing any trace of her thick Irish accent, Ronan is transformative as the character; one that seems like she was destined to play. The young actress already garnered Best Actress Oscar nominations for 2007’s Atonement, when she was just 13, and 2015’s sweeping romantic drama Brooklyn. If I were a betting man I’d put a lot of dough on her picking up a third nom for this monumental performance.
Lady Bird also features some fantastic supporting roles. Laurie Metcalf, who is busy gearing up to play Aunt Jackie again in next year’s TV reboot of Roseanne, is sensational as the family’s stalwart matriarch.
Credit must also be given to Beanie Feldstein (Jonah Hill’s sister) for her turn as Christine’s best friend Julie. She brings a quirky charm to the movie that balances the shifting tone nicely.
Even Lucas Hedges, who rose to prominence in last year’s tearjerker Manchester by the Sea, churns out another subtly-layered performance. A key scene between himself and Ronan calls for a cathartic emotional release and he absolutely nails it.
Films about growing up will come and go but Lady Bird is one for the ages. It is sheer perfection from the first frame to the last and further solidifies the careers of its director and lead stars. Dynamic execution, seamless editing, tremendous acting, and an exceptional script will ensure the film’s lasting legacy for years.
Few movies can be so understated yet resonate so powerfully; both deeply personal and genuinely heartfelt, the film is a stunning accomplishment that deserves every ounce of praise it gets.
Lady Bird earns a perfect 5 out of 5 pieces of popcorn.
Playing in select theatres in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary (Opens Nov. 24 in Montreal). Rated 14A and is 93 minutes long.