Whether you’re a film fanatic or a casual Christmas Day moviegoer, the holiday season can be overwhelming. With all that is coming out in this awards season it’s hard to know what to see. However, if you are going to see one more movie before the clock runs out on 2017, then by god you MUST see “Lady Bird.”
Greta Gerwig. The quirky indie-star we’ve come to love in films like “Frances Ha”, “Greenberg” and “20th Century Women” is now sitting behind the camera in her directorial debut. This semi-autobiographical story centers around Christine (brought to life by the always wonderful Saoirse Ronan), a high school senior living against (that’s right, against) the mundanity of her Catholic High School and her hometown of Sacramento, California. For Christine, there is always the desire to rebel and to belong; often going head to head with her mother Marion (the also always good Laurie Metcalf) on the subjects of college, family and even Christine’s self-given moniker that is titular to the movie. In one scene in which Christine auditions for the school musical, a teacher questions her name on the sign up sheet, spelled out as “Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson”.
For Christine, there is always the desire to rebel and to belong
“Is that your given name?” the teacher says skeptically, to which Christine responds confidently “Yes, it’s given to me by me.”
The film pulls from so many wonderful films from the past – whether it be the early work of Francois Truffaut, Woody Allen, or even the work of Gerwig’s significant other, Noah Baumbach. For actors, directing is often a daunting task, We saw this last year with Denzel Washington’s direction of “Fences,” a film that benefited from its wonderful performances but lacked the important visual element that really makes movies movies. With Gerwig, we not only get an ambitious writer, and a wonderful director of actors, but a truly great visual storyteller as well. The dialogue in “Lady Bird” is always witty, charming, sweet and funny. And while the story is dialogue-heavy it is by no means a crutch.
With Gerwig, we not only get an ambitious writer, and a wonderful director of actors, but a truly great visual storyteller as well
Perhaps the most wonderful thing that this film gives us is a fully formed and fully relatable high school experience in a city that seems to feel like much of the country. Christine’s desires are evident from the get go. She wants to be different and she would be more than happy to have her family’s support in that broad and near-impossible endeavor. She wants to be on the East coast for school, and have experiences with boys and be popular. In her senior year she actually meets two boys who seem to have their own issues, played by the charismatic Lucas Hedges and the up-and-coming Timothee Chalamet.
I could talk about this movie for days. I won’t mention anything about the last twenty-minutes; it’s important that you experience all that for yourself blindly. But this film is the near perfect debut. Malick’s “Badlands”, Godard’s “Breathless”, Anderson’s “Bottle Rocket” and even Welles’s “Citizen Kane” have company in the form of “Lady Bird”. While this film doesn’t have the making of an awards season, eight-plus-nominations-heavy-weight, I assure you that it will be hard for any other film this year to top “Lady Bird”.
Stuart McKean is a film student at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois.