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Bishops Castle Film Society

Lady Bird - 12 Sept 2018

dir Greta Gerwig USA 2017 93m

Greta Gerwig’s feature debut as a writer-director is a gloriously funny and wistfully autobiographical coming-of-age comedy. It is a love letter, of sorts, to her hometown of Sacramento, California; to her passionate and controlling mother; and to her dorky teenage self, who dreamed of getting away to a smart liberal arts college in New York and finding a promised land of grownup sophistication. Lady Bird’s life and that of Greta Gerwig match up: both were born in Sacramento, both with a mother who was a nurse. But as with all autobiographical fiction, there is a subtle pleasure in wondering which bits are taken straight from life and which have been sneakily altered. In this film, Lady Bird is hilariously and ironically second-rate at acting, and flakes out of appearing in The Tempest because she is only offered the insultingly made-up silent role of “Tempest”.

 

I suspect Greta Gerwig was much better, more successful and more committed to her school’s drama scene than this. But those school drama production scenes are just so good. There is a staggering moment in which the director, Father Leviatch (Stephen Henderson), insists in rehearsal that they play an improv game in which they sit in a circle and the first person to cry wins. That is so horrifying I am willing to bet it is absolutely authentic. The film’s emotional centre is the relationship between mother and daughter. In a way, it is about how impossible it is for teenagers to imagine the emotional lives of their parents, or to acknowledge those stricken elders’ devastating sense of abandonment and uselessness when the child leaves home and they have to suppress the symptoms of anger, competitive rage and loss. As for Marion, perhaps she is discovering a great, unacknowledged truth: having children makes you realise that it isn’t all about you any more, but you don’t really realise it until that child grows up and leaves home. Saying goodbye under these circumstances takes a gesture of self-sacrifice, or even self-immolation. Maybe Marion is not yet ready to make that gesture. There are such lovely performances here from Metcalf and Ronan, who are very moving as a mother-daughter pairing of anguish and love.’ (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 15 February 2018)

‘Lady Bird is set in 2003, less than two decades ago, but it might as well be a story from a different age. 2003 was the year the Iraq war started and, crucially, the year before Facebook launched. Therefore, unlike so many ‘coming-of-age’ stories created since, it has no room for social media and other preoccupations of our digital world. Coming-of-age films tend to feature everyday, relatable experiences, about characters who irk us in ways we have been irked, and comfort us in ways we have been comforted. They are memory films. Lady Bird is all of this and so much more.
Saoirse Ronan stars as Sacramento teenager Christine, who insists that people call her Lady Bird, the nickname she has picked for herself. The film charts her difficult final year at her Catholic high school, with love interests and arguments aplenty. World-weary adults pop up throughout to tell Lady Bird ‘she’s not worth it’ and shouldn’t apply to the top colleges, but her determination shines through as she seizes her moment.
Lady Bird emerges in Ronan’s mesmerising performance as brattish but brilliant, a character who is frustrating and hilarious in equal measure, and ultimately someone to root for.’
(Joe Bond, The Spectator Website, February 2018)


 

 

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