Lady Bird film review: Saoirse Ronan shines as high-school rebel in Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated directing debut
Charming, funny coming-of-age drama about an outspoken, rebellious high school senior revolves around the outstanding performances of Ronan, as its main character, and Laurie Metcalf, as her mother
Lady Bird is a charming, graceful and humorous story about growing up in a small town. Such films are a dime a dozen in Hollywood, but actress-screenwriter Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut stands out for its all-around strong performances and relatively short 90-minute runtime – which feels just about right, as other films of this type often meander for too long to try to appear more meaningful.
Saoirse Ronan plays Christine, an outspoken, rebellious high school senior who feels her current life is beneath her. She doesn’t like her birth name (instead, she gives herself the awkward moniker “Lady Bird”); she hates her hometown of Sacramento, a nice but bland city north of San Francisco; and is constantly bickering with her mother (Laurie Metcalf), a stressed-out nurse who has become the family’s breadwinner after Christine’s father (Tracy Letts) is laid off.
Focusing mostly on her last year of high school, the film follows Christine through a series of episodic ordeals, including discovering her first boyfriend’s (Lucas Hedges) hidden homosexuality and losing her virginity to her second boyfriend (Timothée Chalamet, star of Call Me by Your Name).
Christine yearns for a life in the big city and applies for universities in New York despite her mother’s objections over financial concerns, though her timid but supportive father is on her side.
Lady Bird writer-director Greta Gerwig on putting her life into the Oscar-nominated film, and her own cinema education
Coming-of-age films usually try too hard to be cool, with loud soundtracks and overly witty narrative voice-overs or captions, but Gerwig – nominated for a directing Oscar – chooses to skip all those for a low-key, minimalistic editing style.
Her film lets its actors shine; both Ronan and Metcalf are excellent, especially in scenes together. Anyone who had issues with their mother growing up should relate here.
Still, Lady Bird’s Oscar nomination for best picture is probably more a sign of a weak year for American movies than proof that this coming-of-age drama, pleasant though it consistently is, is a cinematic game-changer.
Lady Bird opens on February 22
Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook