With Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein.
Time: early 2000s, just after 9/11 around the time of the Iraq war. Place: Sacramento. Situation: A young adult woman in her senior year in high school starts to break away from her family. It begins with her choice of colleges on the east coast. It continues with her naming herself with a name of her own chosing. She rejects her religion in her strict Catholic school. She wants to lose her virginity. She joins a group of actors in her high school drama club, drops some crucial friends, picks up some dubious others. Each month that goes by in the chronologically structured plot brings Lady Bird closer to her much desired freedom from her safe neighborhood, her rigid school, and most importantly, her powerful mother.
Marion, played by Laurie Metcalf, rarely breaks a smile. One can understand why Lady Bird has lost her use for her. She rarely praises her. Mostly she chides her for minor infractions like not picking up her clothes, and makes her feel guilty when her father loses his job. To say that she does not sugar coat the hard knocks of life is an understatement.
Lady Bird lives with her family of modest means surrounded by families with ample means. She is used to scraping by. Saiorse Ronan is extremely charming in the leading part. Her relationship with her best friend (Beanie Feldstein) is convincing, poignant, and brings to the fore all of the nasty business one must wade through to be clear of high school. Gerwig’s script is witty and smart, and all of the minor characters shine their considerable talents on the leading lady, while acquitting themselves beautifully. Tracy Letts as the girl’s father as so many other fathers before him, has a tight bond with his daughter that the mother can only imagine. The conflicts are laid bare but not melodramatically, mostly because of Ronan’s supreme ability to bring subtlety and a natural grace to everything she does.
This movie made me laugh, and also brought me to the brink of tears. I am still thinking of it these many weeks later, as a genuine work of art.