Film Review: LADY BIRD (USA 2017) ****

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Lady Bird Poster
Trailer

In the early 2000s, an artistically-inclined seventeen year-old comes of age in Sacramento, California.

Director:

Greta Gerwig

Writer:

Greta Gerwig

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.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNi_HC839Wo

 

 

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Film Review: THE LOVERS (USA 2017) ****

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the_lovers.jpgDebra Winger and Tracy Letts play a long-married, dispassionate couple who are both in the midst of serious affairs. But on the brink of calling it quits, a spark between them suddenly reignites, leading them into an impulsive romance.

Director: Azazel Jacobs
Writer: Azazel Jacobs
Stars: Debra Winger, Tracy Letts, Aidan Gillen

Review by Gilbert Seah

Filmmakers have alway been fascinated with ex-wives with the best romantic comedies (this reviewed film included) been made on this subject. Immediately coming to mind are Paul Mazursky’s 1973 BLUME IN LOVE where George Segal spends the entire film wooing his ex-wife played by Susan Anspach and the 2001 French film MA FEMME EST UNE ACTRICE where actor/director Yvan Attal falls in love with his ex-wife played by his real life wife Charlotte Gainsbourg.

When I first saw the trailer for THE LOVERS which is advertised as a grown-up comedy about a married couple who cheat on their lovers – with each other, I had the least desire to watch the film. But as fate turns out, THE LOVERS turns out to be a brilliantly executed piece of work that excels in all departments.

Jacob’s’s film is one of the most romantic films seen in a while, and filled with romantic touches. Gestures like husband Michael placing his hand on wife, Mary’s shoulder or talking ‘duck’ takeout to her on the cell phone demonstrate a true and sincere love that many couple should follow.

Michael and Mary are a decades long married couple with a son coming home from college with his girlfriend. Each is having an affair and both intend to end the marriage after the son’s visit.

Mary is played by three time Oscar nominee Debra Winger (SHADOWLANDS, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN and TERMS OF ENDEARMENT). Michael is played by the excellent Tracy Letts, who many might not know. Letts is a Tony-Award winning actor from WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? and he was also remarkable in the supporting role of the Dean at the college in last year’s INDIGNANT). Letts displays a kinder and more charming character than his other two previously mentioned roles. Letts is a total charmer (to his wife, mistress and to the audience) able too, to elicit total sympathy despite cheating on his wife – quite the accomplishment. In the scene where his son Joel (Tyler Ross) calls him a cheating piece of shit, and he walks away head lowered and mutters, “I am”. One can immediately sense the presence of a great actor.

Composer Mandy Hoffman exceptional score has a retro feel for most of it is written in E-flat, reflecting the sensation of Mary and Michael’s off-kilter world. Near the end, it switches to a sharp key, providing a new joyfulness. A key scene of the film at the end has actor Letts playing the piano and singing the 1971 Labi Shiffre song “It Must be Love” while images of both Michael and Mary’s present and past loves flash across the screen. The original pop song performed by the group Madness was tacky but Jacobs lifts this song to a whole new level for his film. It is a scene that shows that the choice of a partner is not always an easy one and that it can be painful to be so much in love.

Jacob’s film also manages to elude the typical ending where Michael and Mary decide on staying or leaving. It is a sort of fade-to-black but subtly done. But mostly, THE LOVERS is a film about love that has survived because love that can never die.

Warning: Bring lots of Kleenex for the movie. A totally charming and entertaining love story that is still an eye-opener for everyone who has been in a relationship.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nk-T71VhP8I

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Happy Birthday: Tracy Letts

tracylettsHappy Birthday actor/writer Tracy Letts

Born: July 4, 1965 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

[re August: Osage County (2013)]I know that there’s another dimension in the film that is not in the play, and that’s Osage County. I would take them [filmmakers] to my home and show them the landscape, that’s kind of profound for me as a guy who not only has written a play, but written a play that’s somewhat autobiographical. The landscape itself becomes a character.

 

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