Sunday, December 31, 2017

Lady Bird
Souls Of Blossoming Or Evolved Feathers In One Space

Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird and Laurie Metcalf as her mother Marion, in Greta Gerwig's comedy-drama "Lady Bird". 

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Sunday, December 31, 2017

Greta Gerwig's directorial debut couldn't possibly have been any better than "Lady Bird", the warm, moving and deeply affecting tribute to mothers, daughters and adolescence.  Based in part on her own upbringing in Sacramento, California, Ms. Gerwig weaves an intricate and intimate beat to the sunny, organic proceedings.  Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), as she likes to be called, metaphorically aims to grow wings and spread them as she applies for college and gain her own independence.  At the heart of this observant, witty and pointed comedy is Lady Bird's relationship with her mother Marion, played superbly by Laurie Metcalf, a sure-fire Oscar winner in March.  Their push-and-pull will strike an identifiable chord with many women. 

Ms. Metcalf adeptly portrays and releases Marion's angst and the vicarious living of her own adolescence through Lady Bird's trials and tribulations, and her feelings of failure and success are a source of tension between them.  The ebb and flow of their deep and volatile bond is personnified in a scene in a car as their interaction shifts on a dime from singing a song or happily listening to music together to arguing.  What you see with Ms. Ronan and Ms. Metcalf as actors onscreen together is pure generousity and openness.  You need not have expertise or direct knowledge of mother-daughter dynamics to relate to or empathize with the fascinating characters Ms. Gerwig has devised.  Her eloquent writing makes what happens to these characters familiar to many people: economic struggles, idiosyncratic family members and the possible dashing of career expectations due to circumstance.

"Lady Bird" unearths genuine emotion, longing and humor to create one of the most palpable experiences I had at a movie theater this year.  Jon Brion's score is a delight, each musical note played to perfection as a character for this touching experience of a journey to adulthood.  Lady Bird travels through Catholic school, hypocrises, loves lost and gained, and friendships that may hang in the balance to find her path.  She also converses with her father (Tracy Letts) who has stresses of his own.  Mr. Letts ("The Lovers", "The Post") is particularly good in a small role. 

There's an unforgettable line Lady Bird delivers in the film that is criminal to give away.  It's a show-stopper -- a heavy anchor that strikes the core of the earth.  You will know it when you hear it.  Note the timing and reactions to the line.  This is one of the best moments on film in 2017.

"Lady Bird" is a huge triumph.  Ms. Gerwig's sharp, detail-rich writing and dialogue leaps off the screen.  The honesty of the dialogue and situations that unfold before us make "Lady Bird" feel familiar, lived-in, inhabited in a way that is open, resplendent and unapologetic.  There's a liberation and freedom to "Lady Bird" and its distinct personalities that hooked, intrigued me and made me cheer loudly within.  Effervescence, edginess and evolution line "Lady Bird", one of the year's best films.  It's a great, mature film about adults and aspiring adults.  Both are works in progress but "Lady Bird" is the genuine article of a successful and resonant character study.

Ms. Ronan gives her title character an identity, grounding, a singular voice and boundless confidence.  Lady Bird is ambitious.  She wants the sun, stars, moon, love, a good East Coast college, multi-layered chocolate cake and an understanding mother as a friend.  Why can't she have them all?  She can. 

"Lady Bird" is about a fear of letting go, of transitioning.  One person's transition is another person's awareness of mortality, or opportunities lost or a sense of failure or insecurity.  Mr. Brion's score plays up and underneath of these vulnerabilities in the film's characters in an effective, persuasive manner.

Ms. Gerwig's direction is finely executed -- and her characters are larger than life.  Each could have their own comic book story of struggles and victories.  There's an endearing, unerring coverage of character foibles and mishaps that make "Lady Bird" all the more sweet, smart and affectionate even as it nails bell-ringing truths that are punctuated in quiet or silent ways.  Ms. Gerwig, who has a successful career on film in independent and so-called "mumblecore" fare, has authored an open, vivacious and colorful film beautifully bathed in California sunlight.  "Lady Bird" is a special, tender and sensitive film that grows on you.  I appreciated every excellent minute of it.  I can't wait to see what Ms. Gerwig, who I interviewed years ago, does next as a director.

Also with: Stephen McKinley Henderson, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet.

"Lady Bird" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying.  The film's running time is one hour and 34 minutes. 

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