Lady Bird movie review: Greta Gerwig brings much-needed freshness in the overdone coming of age genre

Mihir Fadnavis

Mar,02 2018 10:44:29 IST


It is difficult to find negative elements in Lady Bird — it is an exquisitely cute film starring exquisitely cute people playing exquisitely cute characters dealing with exquisitely cute conflicts. It has got universal appeal and is essential viewing, almost like a movie version of a Chicken Soup for the Soul short story.

Saoirse Ronan in and as Lady Bird. Facebook

Saoirse Ronan in and as Lady Bird. Facebook

Lady Bird is, of course, directed by Greta Gerwig and the ghost of her frequent collaborator Noah Baumbach looms large in this story. There is the same low key sadness and the twee variations of conflict resolution found in Baumbach’s work but Gerwig finds a way to deliver what is clearly a modest story with a much bigger heart than expected.

We are introduced to a world we would want to be part of – the sunny bends of Sacramento in the early 2000s, where everywhere you look seems like an Instagram worthy spot. It is the home of our heroine whose name happens to be named Lady Bird, and is played with frankly ludicrous amounts of charm by Saoirse Ronan. The usual ‘Sundance-ey’ beats kick in as we discover that Lady Bird is a high school student dealing with a troubled relationship with her mother but also cute boys and a burgeoning friendship. But that is basically all that the film is about – a breezy walk through indie clichés executed extremely well.

What makes the film tick is Gerwig’s sensitive approach to direction of her actors and individual scenes – it is all very delicately put together and every good moment stays with you only because it carries an emotional weight despite being quite restrained. There is a certain quality to the way the film is shot by Sam Levy which makes the dramatic beats play out like real memories than a fiction motion picture. In normal circumstances, a scene where a couple of friends are eating chips and chatting should not be noticeable but Gerwig makes otherwise mundane elements like these funny and memorable by employing simple tricks like camera placement and positioning of the actors. Scenes like these are aplenty and they flow so well, and look so natural it almost feels improvised on the spot.

The issue of relatability is a double-edged sword here. While everything that Lady Bird goes through is understandable, there is an American specificity to the film and someone who deals with Virar locals every day may not be able to feel fully resonant with the chocolate-box struggles the film presents. But even to such audiences, this would work as an escapist piece of entertainment. Lady Bird’s relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) is the highlight here – the best scene of which involves the girl and her perpetually cold mother shopping for prom clothes and the girl expecting a little warmth for a change. If there is any fault in the film, it is the lack of these interactive moments between Lady Bird and her mother.

The supporting cast including Beanie Feldstein as Lady Bird’s best pal and Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet as her crushes are all rather delectable. At the forefront however is Miss Ronan who maintains impossible levels of charisma throughout the film but it is also a great performance because she subtly, but deftly delivers unconventional reactions to otherwise hackneyed scenarios. It is ultimately quite an achievement to render something fresh in the vastly milked ‘coming of age’ genre. It is nice to see Gerwig break through as a director and it makes one excited about what film she makes next – it is rare to see a filmmaker with such a grasp on a story’s soul, although one does hope she tackles a story with a little more depth next.

Published Date: Mar 02, 2018 10:44 AM | Updated Date: Mar 03, 2018 16:55 PM