Sometimes a movie can hit that sweet spot that makes you smile as you remember similar situations in your own life. Lady Bird has that effect. A charming coming-of-age story about a high school student getting through her senior year at a Sacramento high school gives us an entertaining tale about the self-absorption of our teen years and the battles we had with our mothers. Mothers were HORRIBLE and didn’t understand ANYTHING, well, until we got older and discovered that maybe we were the horrible ones.
Writer-director Greta Gerwig, who is best known as an actor (Frances Ha, 20th Century Women), takes her experience of growing up in Sacramento as the foundation for the story of Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson (Saiorse Ronan) and her desire to live a more exciting life than the one she is stuck living. It isn’t easy being a teen in boring Sacramento when no one else can see how special you are.
Gerwig cast this movie so well. Ronan is perfect as Lady Bird. She gives Lady Bird multiple layers, creating a character with depth. At times you laugh with her, then at her, and suddenly you are crying for her. It’s a beautiful performance, as is Laurie Metcalf’s as Lady Bird’s mother. Metcalf gives us more than the usual supportive mother, as this mother-daughter relationship may be loving, but it isn’t friendly. The men in Lady Bird’s life also shine. Tracy Letts gives a great low-key performance as Lady Bird’s father, while both Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) and Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name) give us two different types of romances for Lady Bird. Both are so good.
The script gives us the common elements of a teen film: hanging with a best friend (Beanie Feldstein is charming in the role), trying to fit in with the popular kids, falling in love and going to prom, but the plot offers a deeper and more original look at the life of a teenage girl and her mother.
Lady Bird won both Best Film and Best Actress awards from the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and the National Board of Review gave Gerwig Best Director and Metcalf Best Supporting Actress awards. It’s lovely to see this sweet movie about a mother and daughter be the independent-film darling of awards season. See it while you can, before the big-budget movies take its place in the theaters.