You know how there are those movies that you watch and think are really well made, really enjoyable, and very good, but you also know that you’ll never watch it again? That’s how I felt about Lady Bird. It’s a genuinely very good film, but it’s one that I doubt I’ll ever end up watching again. That’s not a testament to the quality of the film, merely a testament to my own personal interests. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird tells the story of Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a high school senior from the “wrong side of the tracks.” She longs for adventure, sophistication, and opportunity, but finds none of that in her Sacramento Catholic high school. Lady Bird follows Christine’s senior year in high school, including her first romance, friendship and family drama, her participation in the school play, and most importantly, her applying for college. Nominated for four Golden Globes, Lady Bird marks the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig. (Mild spoilers ahead)
More than anything else, Lady Bird is a showcase for its actors. Saoirse Ronan gives her best performance to date as Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson. Similarly, Laurie Metcalf gives a truly stunning performance as Lady Bird’s mother, Marion. In fact, the entire cast gives truly wonderful performances and it’s those performances that drive the film towards the greatness it achieves. Each actor fully inhabits their character and breathes such life into them that you genuinely believe they’re real people who have lived real lives. Many of them appear for mere minutes in the film – the one that most comes to mind is Stephen Henderson as Father Leviatch – and all of them manage to convey fully fleshed out characters within those minimal minutes they receive.
The writing, too, is strong. Lady Bird features a genuinely funny and moving script. Not only do the actors breathe life into the characters, the script itself features fully rounded characters. This is a very good thing as the actual plot of the film is very thin; it’s merely a collection of scenes exploring the life of Lady Bird. If you had to pick out a central through-line that propels the film forward, it’s Lady Bird’s various attempts at applying to colleges out-of-state. But Lady Bird is one of those films that doesn’t really need a traditional plot. It’s a character piece that is only interested in exploring the dynamics of the characters and how they interact with themselves and with each other. In this sense, Lady Bird is very similar to a play – which is somewhat ironic given a good chunk of this movie focuses on Lady Bird’s extracurricular dabbling in her high school’s drama club.
Greta Gerwig’s direction is very strong. It’s her directorial debut, and, at times, it shows, but for the most part, it’s a successful first outing. Gerwig knows how to get the best possible performances she can out of her actors, she has a great sense of how music can amplify a scene, and she’s very adept at executing what’s been written in the script she’s directing (it probably helps that she wrote it as well). But she’s not the best at delivering a final, smooth, coherent product. The editing in Lady Bird is sometimes awkward. It’s hard to put my finger on just why I feel that way, but at a guess, it’s that some of the choices rob the film of any forward thrust. That’s a mixture of the writing and the editing, I guess, but it’s still something I noticed. Many scenes don’t really lead to the next scene and as a result, much of the film can feel a bit disconnected at times. It’s never too much to handle or anything, but it did feel awkward to me sometimes.
I don’t want to be too negative about this film; it’s a very good one and I did like it quite a bit. It’s just really not my kind of film. I tend to prefer movies that have some element of escapism, some level of fantasy or fiction that separates it from our current reality. I can appreciate films that are strictly realistic – such as Lady Bird – but they’re not the kind of films that I really get a kick out of watching time and time again. There are exceptions to this, of course – namely It’s Kind of a Funny Story – but for the most part, I just never find myself wanting to revisit films that explore realistic situations so openly and bluntly. I’m more of a genre kind of person; I prefer a good mystery, fantasy, science fiction, absurdist comedy, etc kind of film to a more strictly realistic one. But that’s just me. I try not to let that get in the way of an objective evaluation of a film.
Objectively, Lady Bird is a very good film. It’s well written, exceptionally well acted, and very funny. It’s also slightly awkwardly edited, devoid of any real kind of plot, and a bit too painfully real for my tastes. I definitely recommend the film to anybody who likes these kinds of realistic explorations of characters. It’s a very good film; very Oscar-baity. I did thoroughly enjoy the film and it’s nice that a film helmed by a female writer/director is getting a lot of attention. It’s a shame that Gerwig didn’t get nominated for best director at the Golden Globes; she truly did a good job directing. One can only hope the Academy Awards will give her more attention. On the whole, Lady Bird is an enjoyable flick full of great acting and character exploration. It’s just a film I probably won’t be revisiting.
(4 out of 5 wands)