Movie Review, Silver Moon in Full Bloom

Lady Bird (2017) by Greta Gerwig

Original Name: Lady Bird

Director:  Greta Gerwig

Runtime: 93 minutes

Language: English

IMDB Link:

Greta Gerwig: born in 1983, is an American actress, director, and writer. She first garnered attention after appearing in numerous mumblecore movies. Since 2010, Gerwig has collaborated with her boyfriend Noah Baumbach on numerous films, including ‘Frances Ha,’ ‘Greenberg’ and ‘Mistress America.’ As a solo director, she has contributed to the critically acclaimed fun drama flick ‘Lady Bird’ that earned her two Academy Award nominations.

“I definitely wanted to make a movie about Sacramento, and the first germ of the movie was how I would go about telling that story. None of the things that happen in the movie literally happened to me, but they all rhyme with the truth. I think I always have to start from some emotional truth and build out from there. Most of it is not real, but certainly there is a core that is.”

Lady Bird, a semi-autobiographical directorial debut by Greta Gerwig, transforms a well-rodden coming-of-age story with wit and insight. Watching the film second time, I even become softer to some of my criticisms about it from the first viewing. It’s true that her romances are conventional and they span out quickly – by the time of half an hour mark Christine (I use her real name to separate her character from the film’s title) was done with her first crush Danny and she broke up with her second date Kyle after reaching an hour mark. Yet this time it hits me that her coming-of-age tale isn’t the film’s main focus. Well, yes it still is but the film’s big arc has to do with her relation to her hometown Sacramento and her relation to her mother, both she feels frustrated towards but always finds herself reevaluating time and again. That’s the main reason why Lady Bird skims the surface of her mundane growing up experience (her score-cheating, her prom) into vignettes just like how you page through someone’s personal photo gallery. And like looking through someone’s pictures you can sense the specific atmosphere of that certain era and how the subject change over the time.

And Lady Bird has no amount of shortage when it comes to projecting Christine’s perspective and fleshing out her character. Christine is, simply put, one of the best well-written teenage characters in years. She’s a bag of contradictions: hates her Mom’s gut but always defenses her when someone badmouth her; asserts her personality into almost everything, even if she doesn’t totally get it; her “doesn’t-give-a-damn” attitude, yet still seeking for peer-acceptance. In order words, Christine behaves exactly like teenagers at that age: confuse, always something more. Christine role feels like a breakout performance from a newbie who gives this role their all. The fact that it comes from a twice Oscar-nominated star Saoirse Ronan who goes back to her root is even more impressive.

It helps that Gerwig writes many snappy quotable dialogues that it’s just an earworm to listen to and see how the characters play out. The film literally starts off with a bona-fide exchange between Christine and her mom Marion (Laurie Metcalf) when the two switch between shared emotion to heatly argument to her jumping off a moving car in a span of minutes with easy. Almost every character has killer lines (my favorite: “The Tempest is a titular role”). In addition, the film’s effortless editing makes the film flow breezly (some might say, too breezly).

But the central heart the film tracks down her relationship with her mom, two strong personalities find themselves at war with each other. Lashing out in one moment, tendering the next moment, they clearly love each other, but both doesn’t know how to reach the other. Metcalf is superb in the role, tough, intimidating but ultimately real. “I want you to be the very best version of yourself you can be” says her, in which Christine promptly asks “What if this is the best version?”. Their dynamic in particular, and Lady Bird as a whole, has its achingly keen inside about relationship and growing up. Her almost silent detour at the airport, when we finally see her hard shelf breaks, it lands and it lands hard. The naked truth in emotions and growing extend to her feeling of her hometown, Sacramento too. Gerwig herself is a Sacramento native and we can see her love to this hometown through the way she pays attention to the places. Just like how a nun talks to Christine. Although she always claims she hates this boring town, reading from her writing piece she can tell that it is not the case. That eventually when she’s in the new place she starts to call back all the corners, the town, the people. Homeplace and family, after all, are the root of a person’s identity. Until she can embrace those as part of make her herself, then it’s a mark of her maturity.

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