Friday, February 2, 2018
OSCARS 2018: Lady Bird (2017)
Lady Bird.” One of the best reviewed films of last year, it shows the indie darling cycle coming full circle. “Lady Bird” is the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, an actress who frequently appears in movies of this nature. Considering “Lady Bird” is a lot more tolerable than the mumblecore movies that made Gerwig's name, it's entirely possible she's better at this than most of her former directors.
Set in 2002 – because the time for early 2000s nostalgia is clearly here – the film follows a seventeen year old girl named Christine. Christine has renamed herself “Lady Bird,” in an act of independence and defiance. She frequently butts heads with her mother, Marion, a hardworking nurse with a strong personality. Lady Bird goes to a Catholic school, despite not being Catholic, in Sacramento, a town she hates. She's not an especially strong student but has hopes of getting into a good college. Along the way, she faces challenges involving boys, friends, and mostly a mother who never backs down from her daughter's difficult personality.
The titular character in “Lady Bird” is lively and lovable, largely thanks to Gerwig's script and Ronan's performance. Perhaps what's best about the movie is its incredibly touching depiction of parent/children relationships. The pull-and-push of the mother/daughter relationship is beautifully summed up in the first scene. Lady Bird and her mom cry together after listening to an audio-book of “The Grapes of Wrath.” Minutes late, they are arguing so badly that Lady Bird throws herself from the car. A later scene plays on this same idea. The two argue while looking through a thrift shop for Lady Bird's prom dress. Their argument temporary pauses so they can both ooh-and-aww over a cute gown. Speaking as someone with an older sister, who has frequently seen his mother and sister have similar conversations, I can say that “Lady Bird” captures this relationship hilariously and honestly. Laurie Metcalf is fantastic as Lady Bird's mom, a strong woman who minces few words but never closes her heart to anyone.
Setting “Lady Bird” in such a specific time and place was a deliberate choice that pays off in interesting ways. The spectre of 9/11 hangs over the film in a casual, almost unmentioned way. Lady Bird's mom has to work long, hard hours in order to keep the whole family afloat. Money is never easy to come back. There's even a few cute scenes devoted to the growing role computers had to play in the modern household. Despite honestly criticizing suburban life, “Lady Bird” can't help but have a certain affection for it too. The film's final scene, which bumped it up a whole grade for me, shows Lady Bird reconnecting with her home town, and her family that lives there, despite her constant hunger to reinvent herself as a more serious, worldly person.