A beautiful coming-of-age film
Ah! You see this Zack Snyder/Warner Brothers? THIS is how you do an intimate film! Holy crap this movie is amazing. Writer/director Greta Gerwig makes her (solo) directorial debut here with Lady Bird, a film which is loosely based on her own experiences growing up. It is a simple, yet wonderful premise: a young woman is trying to make it through her senior year in northern California. That's it! And yet it had laughing, having fun, and even rocking the ugly cry before the end of the film. While it's not quite perfect, it is still the best film I have seen so far this year, and will almost certainly make it on to my end-of-year lists when the time comes. So, let's talk about what makes Lady Bird so great!
At the centerpiece of this film is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother. Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson is played brilliantly by the great Saoirse Ronan, (in the best performance of the year so far) and her mom is played by Laurie Metcalf. Their chemistry and their dynamic is SPECTACULAR. One minute they're best friends, the next they're yelling at each other at full volume in a public place, and the next they're best friends again. That feeling of spontaneity makes these performances amazing, and they are captured brilliantly by Gerwig. Ronan's performance is as good as her role in Brooklyn (which was in my top 5 best performances of 2015) and is the best I've seen so far this year because of how grounded and subdued it is. The glamour of Ronan is gone in this gritty, down-to-earth, and slightly nerdy high school senior that insists on being called Lady Bird. It's always amazing to see someone as recognizable as Saoirse Ronan be totally sucked into a role, but that's exactly what happens here. She, along with Laurie Metcalf (who does the same thing) carry this film, and are the reason it's worth watching. Outside of these two, there's a strong supporting cast as well, with father-figure Tracy Letts and love interests Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet leading the way. I only wish that Gerwig herself made a cameo in this film at some point! Especially since this film is based around her own personal experiences.....but I digress.
So let's talk about intimacy, shall we? Because we have another major film recently, Justice League, that tries (and fails) to create some intimate moments, while something like Lady Bird does it so well. First off, the biggest thing Lady Bird hits out of the park to create this intimacy (that Justice League fails at) is the production design/cinematography. So many of the scenes in this film take place in small and quiet locations. A thrift store. A car. A kitchen. And when they happen, they're shot sooooo much better than Justice League could even dream of! If you're trying to have an intimate moment, close-ups are the key. This film allows the actors playing these characters to show their emotions so well because, you know, we are looking at the actors! And there's nothing else on screen besides them to distract us. Justice League director Zack Snyder just can't help himself. Whenever there's an attempt at an intimate moment in that film, they are always filmed with these grand wide shots with a bunch of excess crap in the frame. Snyder really takes a note out of Michael Bay's playbook with this, and I don't know why because it doesn't work for him, either. About the most "action-packed" shots we have in Lady Bird are of simple things, like the countryside in the background because the car our characters are in is moving, or our characters are looking at various pieces of clothing while they bicker. And it's quiet! This film, when it's trying to convey its emotions, understands the power of silence. No unnecessary "white noise" score underneath. When someone does something particularly heinous, we're given a moment of complete silence to let that sink in. Thank you, guys!
Sorry got on a bit of a tangent there so let's move on. Anyway, this movie is also funny. Like, I was laughing hysterically more times than I could count. I mean the film opens with Lady Bird jumping out of a moving car in the middle of her mother yelling at her! Then she wears a cast for half the movie because of it. Talk about hitting the ground rolling! (Don't worry I'll be here all night) About the only issue I had with this film (and what prevents it from having a perfect score) was that it was WAY too short. It clocks in at only 94 minutes, and it could've easily have been 124 minutes, and no one would've blinked an eye. That's usually not enough to affect anything on its own, but because of the short run-time there were some deep and interesting themes that were hastily investigated in this film. Particularly with one of the love interests: something major is brought up with a love interest but is then quickly dropped because there's only so much you can do in 94 minutes. But that's about the only misstep in this film. It is amazing, and WELL worth a watch. I've said it before, and I'll say it again here: A24 is on top of the world. Well done, guys. What a debut for Greta Gerwig, and what a performance by Saoirse Ronan. Do yourself a favor and check this one out.
The Critique: The best film of the year so far, Lady Bird is a funny and emotional movie featuring a brilliant and engrossing relationship between a young woman and her mother.
The Recommendation: You knew this recommendation was coming. Lady Bird is an absolute must-see for all!
The Verdict: 9.5/10 Almost perfect