Sunday, December 3, 2017

Lady Bird review

At Rotten Tomatoes film review site, the movie Lady Bird is averaging at 100%. Dictators running for re-election don't get that approval, well except for Kim Jong Un. My favorite film, Casablanca (1942) scores at 97 %. Maybe it's not fair to compare the two. One is a romantic drama during the dark times of World War II and the other is a coming of age, slice of American life film at the dark times of the George W. Bush administration. Sorry, I know that's political but in the background of Lady Bird, somebody is watching news of the Iraq War.

We're introduced to Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) driving in their car and listening to John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Yeah, that's their shared enjoyment. Christine likes to call herself, "Lady Bird" because that's what artsy high school kids do. Marion is loving but judgmental. She also wants her daughter to go to UC Davis, primarily because it's cheap. Lady Bird wants to go to an East Coast school like Yale or Columbia in New York. Hold on. What's wrong with Sacramento, California? Do you know how big the cockroaches in New York are?

But I digress. The movie shows Lady Bird's life at her Catholic high school, and her relationships with her friends and her mother. Then one day a giant mutated spider attacks the school. Lady Bird becomes a superhero because she's actually half-eagle. Um... okay that stuff about giant mutated spider and Lady Bird becoming a superhero is not in the film. It's basically about Lady Bird's life as a high school girl dealing with premarital sex, her friends, mother and her desire to get out of Sacramento to go to an East Coast college.

Saoirse Ronan is excellent as the colorful, teenage dreamer, Lady Bird. Laurie Metcalf turns in an Oscar winning performance as Lady Bird's mother. She's strict, judgmental but is loving in her own way. Life has been tough on Laurie. The McPhersons are financially struggling and literally live on the wrong side of the tracks. Yet, there is enough generosity of spirit for Lady Bird's father Larry (Tracy Letts) and Laurie to adopt two other children.

Director and writer Greta Gerwig has made a warm, and funny movie. It's clear she's writing about what she knows. It's life in Sacramento. Unless Ms. Gerwig had giant mutated spiders attack her Catholic high school. The dialogue in the screenplay sounds like what people would say in real life. The jokes work too. I enjoyed following Lady Bird's journey. The film has small imperfections like the need for better exposition. For example, there was some confusion as to what exactly Lady Bird told her rich friend about living in a dream house, and Sacramento should have been a bigger influence on their lives. The movie played too small. Not all small films play that way. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) was not an epic yet it had big ideas.

Your enjoyment of Lady Bird might depend on your memory of high school. There were things I liked about high school and there were painful memories. This is a cinematic slice of life. The grade is B Plus.

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