Friday, February 16, 2018

"Lady Bird": one-paragraph review

"Lady Bird" (2017) is a family dramedy written and directed by Greta Gerwig, starring Saoirse* Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Lois Smith. The story centers on Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Ronan), a high-school senior in 2002 who has an adversarial relationship with her mother (Metcalf), an overworked medical professional. Lady Bird—as she prefers to be called—wants to escape what she feels is a suffocating life in Sacramento. She wants to study at an East Coast college, but her mother doesn't want her to go so far away, preferring that she attend college at UC Davis, and telling Lady Bird that she has little chance of making it into East Coast schools, anyway. The story follows Lady Bird's typically turbulent teenage life as she switches cliques (abandoning her best friend Julie [Feldstein]), pranks an old nun in her Catholic school (Smith), and moves from one boyfriend to another, losing her virginity in the process. We gets scenes from high-school life, scenes at home with Lady Bird and her mother going after each other while Lady Bird's father (Letts) watches quietly, and finally, scenes of Lady Bird leaving the nest on the way to meet her future. Gerwig's directorial style for this film is part John Hughes, part Wes Anderson. The plot is choppily laid out in a series of almost jump-cut vignettes, and the dialogue varies from stilted and writerly to comfortably natural. The story goes for authenticity and not realism: there are scenes and dialogue portraying moments that I can relate to, despite the fact that the characters aren't acting in a natural, realistic way. The humor woven throughout what is generally a rather melancholy film varies from cheeky, improv-like moments to something much more muted. In all—and no disrespect to Saoirse Ronan and the rest of the bast—I thought this was an insufferable film, and I had trouble liking the character of Lady Bird, who is congenitally dishonest, unnecessarily rebellious, and overall plain difficult to be around for most of the movie's run time. Lady Bird doesn't really change much until the very end of the story, when she's starting to get a taste of being out on her own. That change comes a little late for my taste, but I doubt I could have structured the story any better than Gerwig did. I'll give this film a flat thumbs-down: I saw it once and won't see it again. Watch it if you have a high tolerance for the tendency of some women to manufacture conflict and over-dramatize.

*"Saoirse" is a good Irish name. Pronounce it "sair-shuh" (not "say-oh-eer-say," as I would have said it). It means freedom. Ronan has both Irish and American citizenship, which probably explains why she sounds so convincingly American: she is American.

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