Growing Up and Getting Out with “Lady Bird”

Poignant, nostalgic and deeply personal, Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” is the coming-of-age story that finally gives angsty teens and their equally anxious parents the justice they deserve.

Gerwig’s triumphant directorial debut evokes a slew of emotions and memories, more so than any film I’ve ever seen. Quirky and semi-autobiographical but extremely relatable, “Lady Bird” is a love letter to your underappreciated hometown, a slap in the face to every boy you’ve ever kissed and an apology letter to mom and dad for making their lives anything but quiet.

Backdropped against post-9/11 America at all-girl Catholic high school Immaculate Heart, known lovingly as ‘Immaculate Fart,’ “Lady Bird” follows our eponymous, red-headed protagonist Lady Bird McPherson as she prepares for the next chapter of her life — college.

Lady Bird, formally known as Christine, is played by the complex tour de force Saoirse Ronan. The role was hers two minutes into the audition, Gerwig said in a press release. Perennially nominated for her wide-ranging body of works, like “Atonement,” “The Lovely Bones” and “Brooklyn,” Ronan is sure to land her umpteenth Oscar nomination as the wide-eyed and hungry Christine.

Checking off the laundry list of growing up rituals, Ronan brilliantly takes her audience back to senior year of high school, with college admission letters, school dances, school plays, parking lot pregames, smoking weed for the first time, the first kiss and subsequent heartbreak.

In support of Ronan as her protective, imperfect maternal parallel, Laurie Metcalf gives a career-best performance as Marion McPherson. Metcalf embodies everything we hate but eventually grow to admire about our parents. She gives Lady Bird a lot of nos and a lot of grief, but speaking from experience, as most parents do, claims, “I want you to be the very best version of yourself.”

Aside from the phenomenal work by Ronan and Metcalf, “Lady Bird’s” supporting cast is homogenous perfection, sure to garner ensemble awards in the spring. Representative of the two types of guys you’re bound to hook up with in high school, Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet play the easy-to-get and hard-to-get boyfriends, respectively. In a similar yin-and-yang narrative, Odeya Rush and newcomer Beanie Feldstein play the ephemeral queen bee and dorky childhood best friend, respectively.

But the real virtuoso here is Gerwig’s writing and novice-to-pro turn as director.

Gerwig masterfully transports her audience back to an embellished recreation of her Tumblr-perfect, NorCal adolescence and does so by nixing common tropes of the genre.

“The mother-daughter relationship is the love story of the film,” Gerwig wrote in the press release. “Generally with films about teenage girls, the story centers around one boy: the prince charming, the answer to all of life’s problems. And I don’t find life to be like that at all.”

Gerwig further stated, “Most women I know had infinitely beautiful, incredibly complicated relationships with their mothers in their teenage years … To me, those are the most moving of love stories.”

One of the final moments of the film reflects Gerwig’s intent perfectly. Lady Bird is seen calling her mother after her first homesick night at college, asking, “Did you feel emotional the first time you drove in Sacramento?” Metcalf and Ronan are then seen in separate shots driving through California’s magical capital. This moment separates the two as mother and daughter and right and wrong and presents two strong women who are learning from each other everyday. While the two are not perfect, the film most definitely is.

“Lady Bird” hits theaters Nov. 3.

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