2018 in Cinema:
Lady Bird, 2018
Directed by: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Lois Smith
Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson (Soairse Ronan) is a rebellious, angry teenager in the final year of high school, with all the troubles of new relationships, friendships ending, university applications and parent-daughter relationships that it brings in this brilliantly funny coming-of-age film. My university dissertation was about the changing characteristics in young adult fiction (starting off with the early coming-of-age novels such as The Catcher in the Rye to the more modern young-adult fantasy novels such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), but this was the first time I’d seen a film more on the side of a coming-of-age story. The main plot revolves around her being in the final year of high school, dating Danny (Lucas Hedges) and Kyle (Timothee Chalamet), fighting non-stop with her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), and being friends with Julie (Beanie Feldstein), and in nearly every scene with nearly every teenage experience she went through, I relived so many moments of my youth.
Firstly, the Oscar for Best Actress category must be one of the hardest to judge in a long time. I really liked Frances McDormand (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri), I immediately fell in love with Sally Hawkins’ (The Shape of Water) performance and felt I had my pick, then Saoirse Ronan here gave a fantastic performance and I’d changed my pick again but then I saw I, Tonya with Margot Robbie and I find myself stuck again. Ronan’s performance here (where she manages to beautifully hide her strong Irish accent) is so heartfelt and emotional that she must have experienced similar things in her youth to draw on, and she is opposite a fantastic lead in Laurie Metcalf, who for me is battling with Allison Janney alone for that Best Supporting actress trophy. She takes a break from religiously bossing around Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) in The Big Bang Theory to religiously boss around Lady Bird and their dynamic throughout is beautiful to see, from anger to sadness, from elation to love, they cover nearly all the bases.
I also felt the script here was brilliant; subtly dropping off a Christine mention when she was in trouble (she anoints herself Lady Bird; ‘it’s given to [her] by [her]’) and the jokes and character development was really well written. She has to fall in and out of love twice, apply and be accepted into college, argue with her best friend, sort out prom, attend classes, work and clash with her parents in the space of 90 minutes and with a poor script that could have been terrible, but the sheer amount I was invested reflected how good the script was. However, that does segue nicely into my one main criticism: its length. So many times on my website have I complained about a film not being strong enough to sustain its running time; this was the complete opposite. While the script is fantastic for how it deals with the time limit, there are moments whereby scenes come and go in a flash that could have had more development. Throughout the film it felt like we were in a rush to get to the finish, having a quick argument immediately cut to them at dinner with a quick conversation before immediately cutting to her on a date; it never allowed any time to sit and truly admire the story , and while it could be seen as a quick look through some of the quickest years of your life, that doesn’t stand out as obvious when watching it. I would have just liked an extra 15 minutes to give it a bit more breathing space between scenes.
That being said the film was brilliant. There were many parts I liked; such as Lady Bird complaining about her brother’s piercings before we see him going for a job interview later without them (it’s not mentioned in the film or zoomed in on or anything, he’s just there on screen and its subtlety was a nice change) and there’s a moment later in the scene, which I won’t spoil anything about, but, after the journey we’d seen her on, it was absolutely beautiful, and it only really took Lady Bird to say one word. A true coming-of-age story is really hard to come by these days, in print or on screen, as most tend to focus on a young person striving through adolescence while battling an evil dictator and saving the world; Lady Bird deals with none of that and instead we just see her life. Be it the way she says her home address (she says it’s ‘behind the tracks’ whereas I used to say ‘below the [train]line’ ) to her experiences, both good and bad, I felt a strong personal connection to nearly every event, and that’s down to great acting, to invest me in the story, and a great story; it’s just a shame it couldn’t have been slightly longer.
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