LADY BIRD Review
To use the word "perfect" is a large statement. To truly mean it anyhow. Especially in this day and age of embellished emotionally responses towards seemingly all subjects. Every other moment you are reading what is "the best" or "the worst ever". Without a ounce of hyperbole, Greta Gerwig has crafted a near perfect film in LADY BIRD. I have no true idea what absolute perfection is so to safeguard myself I insert the word "near". If I were asked to give an example though, LADY BIRD would be a comfortable response for my part in the question.
The film takes place in 2002/2003 while the titled character, Christine, who has given herself the name, Lady Bird, is graduating High School and ready to enter the larger world that she wants so badly. At this time, I myself was 5 years removed from high school but connected with much of what Saoirse Ronan's character is battling. Confusion of what one truly wants. Trying to be a good person while at the same time being selfish in a way that all of us have been at one time or another. Desiring to make others happy while also wanting to carve your own path that you see as THE path. Hurtful things can be said at these times. Finding the balance in a film so your main character is not a leper to the audience is one helluva magic trick performed with the words written by Great Gerwig and the performance she directs from Saoirse Ronan, who is simply put, one of the best at what she does. In 2015 she was my personal winner for Best Actress in BROOKLYN and I can't imagine her work here not earning another nod from the Academy and more. Great Gerwig will gain acclaim most due as well.
This script is smart but never snarky, warm but never saccharine. It earns its moments and plays them deftly. From the music playing in the background to the words spoken above it, the whole thing just flows and feels right. It's also comprised of beats that you have no doubt seen in previous films but there is something more to it here. A genuineness that starts with the leading actress and is carried by the supporting players which, above all, sits Laurie Metcalf. In her portrayal of Marion, Lady Bird's mother, we see love but also a passive-aggression that only can be delivered by the very best. Her daughter is a mystery to her in so many ways and the unknowing of what will happen next is not something she handles comfortably. On the other hand, Marion's upbringing was a different level of abuse and neglect, so she may not see how her actions can have a negative affect while thinking she is just being honest and tough. She even calls herself the "bad" parent in a pair of scenes which acknowledges that she is aware but still sees the need for her actions.
The scenes between mother and daughter are the heart of the film and you see the dynamics in how one moment they are at another's throat but then break suddenly because they agree the dress being held up is in fact, beautiful. In reverse, a shared tear over The Grapes of Wrath can devolve quickly into an argument finished only by a car door opening suddenly so one of the combatants can escape the situation quickly. Trust me, after you watch the film, that last part will make sense.
Don't think the film to be bereft of joy though. On the contrary. It brims with it when the situation is accurate. Lady Bird's closest friend is Julie, as played by Beanie Feldstein, and when the two are together you see pure joy. They have ups and downs but in the end the love they have for one another is honest and relatable if you ever had a truly close friend who just knew you above all others. While this story is by no means my own, there were a number of elements that hit quite close to home towards the relationships explored.
I do not know what perfect is, but LADY BIRD is one of the best examples I can give to explain the term. I look forward to seeing Great Gerwig's next and the continuation of Saoirse Ronan's already impressive career.