Friday, October 27, 2017


Saoirse Ronan     Laurie Metcalf     Odeya Rush     Beanie Feldstein     
Lucas Hedges     Timothee Chalamet     Tracy Letts

     There is always a challenge for comedies to have substance as well as humor, and writer/director Greta Gerwig has achieved just such a balance in Lady Bird.  Comedy runs throughout, but underlying it are observations about mother-daughter relationships, adolescence, male-female relationships, friendships, truthfulness, religion, and economic hardship, all presented naturalistically and with precise timing.  The characters speak as real people expressing themselves, as opposed to a series of comedy routines.
     Young Christine (Ronan), who has adopted the name of “Lady Bird”, is in the throes of first loves, struggling to make good grades in high school so that she can go to a “good” college and get out of Sacramento, and slogging through multiple applications to college.  Interestingly, she has more faith in herself than does anyone around her.  And true, she has committed some infractions and does not always have the self-discipline she needs, but she is reasonably smart and knows what she wants—to break out of living on the wrong side of the tracks and all that implies.  She is not unsympathetic to her parents’ economic problems, it’s just that she is optimistic about being able to do better.
     Her mother Jenna (Rush) has no such high hopes; she is a practical, organized woman who is appalled about things like a messy room and disrespectful behavior, but is sorely lacking in emotional responsiveness and psychological insight, although she does appear to be some kind of counselor in her job.  She doesn’t have enough empathy to see how similar she and her daughter are.  Fortunately for both mother and daughter, the father (Letts) acts in a positive way as mediator.  And fortunately for both, they always manage to maintain some degree of understanding and love for each other.
     Then there is Lady Bird’s life with her friends at school, where there’s a bit of a caste system between those who live on right and wrong sides of the track.  She and her very best friend (super bright but overweight and perhaps not as creative as Christine) Julie (Feldstein), are tight and have great fun together until Lady Bird begins to branch out and think she can be on the “right side of the tracks” if she manipulates situations.  She is attracted to a fellow Thespian, Danny (Hedges), and when that doesn’t turn out, she goes for Kyle (Chalamet), and it’s interesting to observe her exploring different ways of being in her romantic relationships and in different social classes. 
     This well written story has a beginning, middle, and very satisfying end.  The acting is superb, starting with Saoirse Ronan in a different role from her usual that highlights her considerable talent.  Odeya Rush and Trace Letts as Christine’s parents are skilled actors whose strengths are readily  evident in their very different relationships with their daughter.  I found Beanie Feldstein’s performance as Christine’s best friend right on, and I appreciated its truth about very bright, chubby girls not getting the recognition from society that they deserve.  The two young men, Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet, who play Christine’s boyfriends, live up to their promising reputations for achieving their potential as actors.
     In addition to the quality of writing, directing, and acting, Jori Brion’s music aptly evokes the period in which the movie takes place, the 1990’s (e.g., The Monkees, The Doors), in expressing the mood of each scene.

An award-worthy production that marks the accomplishment of its writer-director, Greta Gerwig.

Grade:  A                                    By Donna R. Copeland

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