I remembered Greta Gerwig from "Frances Ha" which I didn't really care for so I was more than surprised to discover that not only can she direct (as evidenced by her efforts here with Lady Bird) but is a talented screenwriter as well (yes, she also wrote the screenplay!). Her story is set in (of all places), Sacramento, and stars the consistently strong Irish-American actor Saoirse Ronan as Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, an off-beat adolescent in her senior year at a local parochial school, hoping to get accepted by a good school on the east coast (as opposed to a state university which her parents can afford). Christine calls herself "Lady Bird" in order to stand out from her peers and her mother Marion (played by Laurie Metcalf in a potential Oscar-winning performance) can't get used to the new appellation. The conflict between the two is the highlight of the film, as Christine's mother is hard on her daughter at almost every turn, wanting the best for her but insisting on good behavior. Christine, on the other hand, resents her mother's interference in her life and consequently struggles with her self-image. Gerwig's portrait of the wayward adolescent is spot-on, as Christine exhibits that perfect mixture of arrogance and wisdom, typical of gifted but confused teenagers. Gerwig is intent on eschewing the usual cliches of coming-of-age narratives. What impressed me the most was her sympathetic treatment of the parochial school priests and nuns, entrusted with educating kids who are not exactly what you would call devoted Catholics. You wouldn't expect a priest (Father Leviatch) to be conducting auditions for a Sondheim musical (in this case, "Merrily we Roll Along") but that's exactly what he does and later bemoans the unenthusiastic audience reaction, exclaiming that they "just didn't "get it"he's also the same priest who conducts a group therapy session exhorting the students to be the "first one to cry" (and of course, it's Father Leviatch who is the first to emote!). There's also another hilarious scene with the football coach (another priest!--Father Walther) who subs for Father Leviatch (who eventually resigns due to depression). The coach directs Shakespeare's "The Tempest" as if it's a football game and the beleaguered drama students all must cope with the coach's crazy approach. When Christine is suspended after falling afoul of a teacher who promotes a pro-life stance (relating that her mother was considering an abortionand this particular teacher wouldn't have been born had her mother gone ahead with her initial decision), the Mother Superior, Sister Sarah Joan, confides to Christine that that the anti-abortion teacher is really a blow-hard and she actually found Christine's comments (that led to her suspension) to be amusing. Hence, Christine gets off lightly with Gerwig emphasizing the humanity of the nun in charge. There are multiple twists and turns in the plot that keep the story fresh throughout. When Christine discovers her first love, Danny, is gay, she stops speaking to him out of anger. But later she forgives and hugs him, after he reveals that he'll probably be rejected by his family if he comes out of the closet. Similarly, the theme of forgiveness is also played out in Christine's relationship to her best friend, Julie, who she has a falling out with over her new relationship with Jenna, a "bad girl" to Julie the "good." After Christine falls for a second boy, Kyle, she again endures disappointment when she discovers that he's already slept with six other girls and is no "virgin" as he had told Christine earlier. Emotionally devastated, this leads Christine to reconcile with Julie and in another delightful twist, they end up dancing together at the Senior Prom! Last but not least, Christine's father, Larry (a low-key but highly effective Tracy Letts), despite having lost his job, provides emotional support for Christine along with helping her fill out financial aid applications. Much to her mother's chagrin, Christine is accepted by a college in NYC and her mother isn't talking to her as she jets off to her new life at the university. An overdose of alcohol (which lands her briefly in the hospital) perhaps is the trigger that helps her to grow up and realize that her mother loved her all along and is now ready to start her freshmen year in New York as a full-fledged adult! With the usual ubiquitous glut on the market of coming of age stories, Greta Gerwig manages to infuse her tale with a rich tapestry of intuitive observations of life, making her freshmen effort an extraordinary winning one, deserving of all the accolades already heaped upon it.
Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, a fiercely independent teenager, tries to make her own way in the world while wanting to get out of her hometown of Sacramento, California & to get away from her complicated mother & recently-unemployed father.
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