Lady Bird, director Greta Gerwig’s second feature (her first solo one), is a smart, funny and warm coming of age story that with time could well sit among the likes of John Hughes and his contribution to teen movies. What sets Gerwig’s film apart is the clear autobiographical voice that runs through it. Ladybird, or Christine, played by Saoirse Ronan, is sick of her life in Sacramento and dreams of living somewhere more cultured, like New York, or Connecticut.
While the story is simple, the performances and writing make Lady Bird stand out and live up to its Oscar hype. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) disappears into the role of Ladybird, giving a tremendous performance, as does the equally excellent Laurie Metcalf as her mother, Marion. Praise should also be given to Beanie Feldstein playing Ladybird’s loveably dorky best friend Julie. The charming chemistry between the two is captured during the in-between moments at their school days; bunking off class or rehearsing for a musical.
The main drama comes from Ladybird’s mission to apply for various East Coast schools, anywhere outside of California. Her mother vehemently disapproves of this, due to a combination of money trouble and Ladybird’s poor academic performance. This results in many tempestuous arguments between the mother and daughter. However, while the film is firmly rooted in Ladybird’s perspective, it never makes Marion out to be cruel. In fact, the daughter comes to realise why her mother is the way she is and even tries to reconcile their differences towards the end of the film.
As mentioned before, Ronan immerses herself in the role, growing out her hair for a questionable dye-job, her face shiny with a hint of acne. Props must be given to make-up and wardrobe as the style of 2002 is brought perfectly back to life.
Each character in the film is flawed. Ladybird is so self-absorbed in her quest to escape her Sacramento life that she doesn’t see how it hurts her family. Marion can often take a step too far in criticising her daughter. But each character feels very real, as the great cast work off a funny and heart-warming script that brings back all the awkwardness and optimism of being a teenager. Teen life is portrayed here, acne and all. Believe the hype, this film will be loved by Ladybirds for years to come.