2017 TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL: Greta Gerwig‘s directorial début “Lady Bird,” stars Saoirse Ronan in a coming-of-age tale (she seems to do a lot of these, no?) confined within the walls of lower-middle-class, Catholic School upbringing. The film made its world premiere hand is one of several films in A24’s outstanding arsenal this year.
Telluride is abuzz with the film, as several heavily respected critics have already weighed in with their support of Gerwig’s movie. Sadly, I cannot echo their sentiment – at least not completely. It’s not that the film is not enjoyable because it is. It’s not that Gerwig didn’t do an admirable job with her first film, because she did. In the end, it might just come down to certain decisions made with the lead character Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Ronan) that left me so cold.
It’s 2002, and Christine doesn’t believe she should have to take the name her parents gave her, and so instead she is declaring herself Lady Bird. Like a lot of things in this young lady’s life, she is aloof to most of the decisions she makes and the consequences that come from her choices. She has an argumentative, contemptuous relationship with her overworked, passive-aggressive mother (played by Laurie Metcalf in a career-best turn). Her father (played by the inimitable Tracy Letts) is the nice guy, stuck in the middle of the turbulent connection.
As she closes out her senior year of high school, Lady Bird faces the same decisions many young adults are faced with; who to date, who to surround yourself with, what school to go to. And, like most teens, she makes some good decisions and some not so good. Despite these understandably troubling times, it’s the way she handles herself that makes her just too cold and cantankerous to really cheer for by the end.
Gerwig introduced her film with such grace and humility, nearly in tears in front of the Telluride crowd. You can tell she put a lot of herself into the film, and she makes some fantastic choices as a freshman auteur.
The way she handles her supporting characters shows extreme promise for her future endeavors. There are terrifically funny moments, especially from Christine’s best friend, Julie Steffans (Beanie Feldstein) and love interest Danny (Lucas Hedges). A more experienced director may have realized how disagreeable her lead character was, and given her more of an arc before closing on the high note that she does. Despite the glaring problems, the film is an enjoyable experience.
We should all be looking forward to where Gerwig takes her career next. As a writer, actor, and director, it’s clear that the girl has talent.
If only Christine had some of the same humility that Greta displayed tonight.