I finally saw the movie Lady Bird tonight, after wanting to see it since it was originally released. Now that it has Academy Awards nominations, it's back in theaters. (I don't think it's first run in Lansing lasted more than a few weeks).
We don't get a chance to see many coming-of-age movies with female protagonists, and that is what Lady Bird primarily is. Saoirse Ronan (first name ronounced "SIR-shuh," by the way) delivers a nuanced performance as the titular Christin "Lady Bird" McPherson, a senior at an all-girls Catholic high school in Sacramento, California. In an attempt to forge a new identity, Christina insists that everyone refer to her as Lady Bird. (We are not given a reason as to why she chose "Lady Bird" as her new name).
Lady Bird is a girl who, despite not being a particularly great student (good, but not great), is not lacking in self-confidence. In this, she is similar to Max Fischer from Wes Anderson's film Rushmore. She successfully tries out for the school play, and bravely approaches boys she likes. She dresses with quirky flare, and has a mischievous side.
Lady Bird's biggest conflict is with her passive-aggressive and often cutting mother, who loves her daughter but has a difficult time expressing it.
The movie follows Lady Bird through the ups and downs of her senior year, in the aftermath of a nation shaken by 9/11. (The movie takes place in 2002 and 2003). Though the events of that era merely provide background, the characters--to some extent--seem to be suffering through the uncertainty and emotional depression of that era. (It's strange to watch a movie from 2002 and think of it as an historical artifact). We watch the evolution of Lady Bird as she tries hard to both find out who she is and break away from what she views as her stultifying surroundings, only to make discoveries in the end that might have surprised her. (I won't give away too much)
Greta Gerwig wrote a good script full of realistic dialogue, particularly between Lady Bird and her mother (played by the always excellent Laurie Metcalf). What I particularly appreciate is that, whether by design or not, she left enough gaps in the storytelling for the viewer to fill in themselves.
Lady Bird doesn't break any new ground in filmmaking, but it is a thoughtful, well-written, and certainly well-performed little movie--and a promising directorial debut for Greta Gerwig.