Greta Gerwig does an impressive job for LADY BIRD – her first solo directorial debut. Gerwig choses the coming-of-age story of an 18-year old senior student called Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) as the subject. Lady Bird (her real name is Christine McPherson) is as annoying, spirited and independent as any teenager would be. But Greewig’s script and Ronan’s portrayal allows the audience not to dislike her.
Lady Bird attends a catholic high school in Sacramento. She lives with her mother (Laurie Metcalf), father (Tracy Letts) and step-brother, Miguel (Jordan Rodriguez). She has a stormy relationship with her mother, things getting worse when she gets suspended telling off a teacher. Her mother works extra shifts to support her, claiming that no amount of money can repay this debt. Lady Bird has a failed relationship with Danny (Lucas Hedges) who ends up coming out gay. She then loses her virginity to Kyle (Timothée Chalamet) who turns out to have been sleeping around. But the key issue is that she wants to study in New York but her mother refuses as the family cannot afford it. When her mother finds out she had applied in secret, she becomes really upset.
The film covers thoroughly a lot of the female teen issues quite well. Lady Bird undergoes the learning process and develops her character for the better. But it is a rough road. She ditches her best friend, Jenny (Beanie Feldstein) and has major fights with her mother. She makes up with Jenny going to the prom with her after ditching her prom date, Kyle. The film’s climax has her in New York after her mother drives her to the airport, still visibly upset.
Gerwig stages well constructed and written confrontational scenes. Two of these involve Lady Bird and her mother. One has her asking for a number, what her mother has spent supporting her. When her mother replies no number can be put down for what she has done, Lady Bird storms out of the room. The other has her begging her mother for forgiveness while her mother is doing the dishes, giving her the silent treatment. Greta could have made the film funnier, but she restrains, keeping her story focuses and serious. Gerwig shows both sides of the picture, the mother’s and the daughter’s. They have their points of view and are strong women.
The script however, noticeably does not contain strong male characters. Kyle is an idiot, Danny is weak willed unable to accept his homosexuality. The father suffers from depression and Miguel is not that strong a person either.
Metcalf delivers a terrific performance as the mother. She manages to win the audience to her side and makes her point without having to resort to cheap theatrics like screaming or crying. Ronan is equally good while Letts does well in his little written role.
Gerwig draws her audience effectively into Lady Bird’s world, opening out an exciting adventure of a family, not dysfunctional, but one that still have problems to solve.
LADY BIRD succeeds. One would now hope to see a film made but with the male and female roles reversed – with a story of a n angry male teen learning his lessons in life.