Austin Film Festival 2017 Review: LADY BIRD

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Actress Greta Gerwig makes her directorial debut with a film that is sure to get some serious attention during awards season.  Often uproarious, sometimes poignant, and always full of heart, Lady Bird tells the story of an intelligent, strong-willed, and downright lovable teenage girl. The movie follows Lady Bird as she struggles to discover her true identity while dealing with the usual problems of high school, growing up and her tempestuous relationship with her headstrong mother.  With phenomenal performances by Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, and exceptional writing and direction by Gerwig, Lady Bird deserves the love it should receive.

Defiant, stubborn, but smart and funny, Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a teenager who demands to be called “Lady Bird,” dreams of leaving behind her “humdrum” life in Sacramento, California.  She must first, however, get through her senior year of high school which involves school plays, mostly harmless expressions of rebellion, boys, and discovering her true friends.  Lady Bird must also contend with her messy home life involving her love/hate relationship with her mother Marion (Metcalf), the financial difficulties that come with her dad Larry’s (Tracy Letts) unemployment and the constant bickering with her brother (Miguel) Jordan Rodrigues.  For Lady Bird, life as a high school senior definitely has its major ups and downs and it is rather easy to dream of her inevitable escape.  However, when it all comes down to it, she loves her family and they love her.  They all just get a little pissed off with each other sometimes.

Greta Gerwig has previously shown some fine talent when it comes to acting and writing, but proves herself as an exceptional filmmaker with her directorial debut.  Through Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, Gerwig brings a genuine voice to the trial and tribulations of being an opinionated, quirky and outspoken teen girl.  Gerwig’s protagonist goes through the usual rituals, the bad relationships, awkward romantic encounters and the fights with the parents, but Gerwig has written and directed these moments almost perfectly.  Gerwig also brings to Lady Bird’s life and scenarios a delightfully infectious sense of humor that had me laughing heartily and will certainly have that same impact on all of it audiences.

The superb acting by both both Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf will definitely get some attention next year and is another main reason why this film works so well.  Greta Gerwig has created these magical moments in the screenplay and through her development of these characters with Ronan and Metcalf everything works tremendously.  Tracy Letts, who stars in the also fantastic The Lovers, gives another outstanding turn as Lady Bird’s father Larry.  Among the other supporting cast members, audiences should look for excellent work by Lois Smith, Jordan Rodrigues, Beanie Feldstein, Odeya Rush, Timothée Chalamet, and Lucas Hedges.

This year at the Austin Film Festival, Lady Bird served as the festival’s opening night feature film and Greta Gerwig arrived to present her film.  The talented actress and filmmaker should be very proud of her debut film and hopefully it will achieve enough acclaim and success that will allow her to helm more.  It is truly wonderful to see women working and succeeding in movies.  2017 has been a great year for women filmmakers with Patty Jenkins’s Wonder WomanLaura E. Davis’s Inheritance, Jessica M. Thompson’s The Light of the Moon, and Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Women finding audiences.  Perhaps these successes will allow more women to express themselves through the magic of movies.

 

 

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