Lady Bird thankfully is nothing to do with the wife of the 39th President of the United States, but is the self-given name of a feisty 17 year Sacramento girl who is finishing her final year in High School. The year is 2002 and Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) is constantly being reminded of how grateful she should be that she gets to attend a private Catholic school on scholarship. The movie opens with her mother Marian (Laurie Metcalf) driving her around checking out colleges in their area, but Lady Bird is having none of it and is determined to fly the coop and the State and study in N.Y. once she graduates school.
The family also includes Lady Bird’s easy going unemployed father (Tracy Letts), her adopted brother Miguel (Jordan Rodriquez) who she constantly fights with, and his live-in girlfriend. Marian who works double shifts at the hospital so that they can maintain their very modest life, is a reluctant bossy matriarch who so desperately wants to ease up on being aggressively tough on Lady Bird, but she is too scared of what she thinks the consequences will be if she does.
Neither a bright or a popular pupil at school, Lady Bird nevertheless has this unshakeable confidence when it comes to standing for School President when she has no real chance of winning, or pursing her first boyfriend when she spots him in Drama class. Handsome Danny (Lucas Hedges from Manchester at Sea) is too good to be true and Lady Bird cannot understand how she has landed him, that is until one night she catches him making out with another boy.
She next sets her sights on Kyle (Timothée Chalamet from Call Me By Your Name) who is a good-looking louche. As he hangs out with a group of spoilt rich kids in her class, Lady Bird ditches her one best friend and pals up with the school’s popular beauty Jenna (Odeya Rush) just so she can get closer to Kyle who doesn’t have the same reluctance to take her virginity as Danny had.
Throughout the whole story it is the relationship between mother and daughter that is the core of the piece. Both women seemed positively scared at times of how deeply they are connected, and of how similar they are on many levels too. Marion cannot help be a tad jealous that as she is weighted down by the being the breadwinner she will never have the freedom that Lady Bird assumes is her right, and there is an inevitable big bust-up when she insists on making her own choice about college.
It is an exceptional writing/directing debut from Sacramento native Greta Gerwig who has been behind the camera before but never completely on her own like this. It is not just the storyline that makes the movie really hit home, but the fact that Gerwig has given her wonderful cast such well-rounded and completely believable roles. There is such an authenticity about the drama that is so refreshing, particularly in Marion’s multi-layered relationship with Lady Bird.
Ronan as Lady Bird proves that her two Academy Award nominations that she garnered at such a young age were no fluke (this will definitely give her a 3rd). She is not alone however, as Metcalf recognizing what a meaty part she had, gives a career best performance which is an absolute sheer joy to witness. Also by casting the two hottest talented boys who have both just been hailed for their recent breakthrough performances (Hedges and Chalamet ) Gerwig ensured that all the acting really did justice to compelling movie.
Lady Bird is classified as a comedy, but its gentle humor is not the laugh-out-loud type, but one that recognizes the funny side of all the angst and joys of growing up. It is a faultless film from a masterful storyteller who Sacremento, and the world, should be proud off.