NYFF Film Review: ‘Lady Bird’ Ignites with Humor and a Captivating Saoirse Ronan

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2017 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: With an impressive resume that has spanned both in acting and in the writing room, the multi-talented Greta Gerwig steps behind the camera for the first time as a director and hits it out of the park with her deeply entertaining “Lady Bird.”   Stitching together a splendid cast led by the ebullient Saoirse Ronan, the film has all the marvelous characteristics that measure of to one of the most lively times at the movies this year.

Lady Bird,” tells the story of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Ronan), a young girl who we follow on all her adventures during her senior year of high school in 2002.  Under the thumb of her critical mother (played by Laurie Metcalf) and the support of her best friend Julie (played by Beanie Feldstein), Christine will discover what person she wants to become.

Writer/director Gerwig finds her stride early on, continuing to add comedic beats and dramatic heft to Christine’s story.  She seems to tap into something we may have seen from Zach Braff in his debut “Garden State.”  So personal, it feels as if the film was made specifically for a 33-year-old man living in New Jersey.  Gerwig taps into a time of nerves, yearn, and sporadic behavior that plagues any 17-year-old, no matter the gender.  Having the setting in a Northern California neighborhood and catholic school feels even more precise.  We witness Christine go through multiple crushes and relationships, all of which signify her evolution into an adult.  It’s one of the profound writing achievements of the year.

You can’t credit the film’s success without having to let Saoirse Ronan’s name fall off your lips in immediate praise.  Her diverse resume has already produced outstanding performances in films like “Atonement” and “Brooklyn,” even when the movies around her seem to be crumbling, she finds an emotional center to portray (i.e. “Hanna” and “The Lovely Bones”).  This is one of Ronan’s richest and ardent turns yet.  Christine’s choices are squarely accurate coming from a teenager who has no real understanding of the world.  She lusts for realism without being honest about what her life until now has been or meant.  Her relationship with her mother is acutely absolute, as she pleads for acceptance and acknowledgment.  It’s an intensely felt portrayal.

Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts‘ performance as Christine’s parents are beyond complimentary.  Metcalf, who has been a treasure for decades, is thoroughly affecting.  She displays the frustration and pitfalls of parenting a new generation.  Letts’ expressive work emulates Steve Carell’s work in “Little Miss Sunshine” minus the homosexual suicide.  He finds his love for his daughter and rests it in the carriage of his words, leaving a tender, stirring feeling.

The rest of the cast lights up the screen especially Beanie Feldstein, a hopeless teenager desperate to feel secure about her future.  Lucas Hedges impresses as the young boyfriend while Timothee Chalamet seems like he was plucked out of one of the Goth kid episodes of “South Park” (and that’s a compliment).

Vibrant and whimsical, “Lady Bird” is a hypnotic, absorbing feat, that seems destined to become a classic.  Unapologetic, the film finds the laughter and tears during our teenage years, leaving us with a sense that home is not just where we come from, it’s where our hearts belong.

“Lady Bird” is distributed by A24 and hits theaters on Nov. 3.

GRADE: (★½)

Check out the newest Oscar Predictions and see where “LADY BIRD” ranks!

CLICK THE CATEGORY TO SEE THE OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

MOTION PICTURE | DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |

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  • Joey Magidson

    An absolute delight and one of the best things that I’ve seen at the festival. I will say I’m bigger on Metcalf, but everyone is outstanding here.

  • Luke McGowan

    I will pretty much watch Saoirse Ronan in anything and this is one of my favourite trailers of the year.