2 ½ stars
I don’t know about you, but I am a bit tired of “coming of age” movies. I mean, how many times must we shackled and chained to our theater seats and forced to relive those painful teenage memories? Are three enough? Are six too many? Seriously, each director thinks he/she has captured the ultimate experience. But in my estimation, it all looks the same, even if we are in a different age. The hero has a sort of mini beard. The heroine has red hair – or is it blonde? Her best friend is fat – or is she ultra-thin? Her mom is a world class bitch – or is she June Cleaver? For me, the jury is still out. I am always hopeful the next one will be novel. Still, “Lady Bird” is worth watching.
First, it is refreshing to have a new woman behind the lens. Greta Gerwig made her directorial debut with “Lady Bird” – which she also co-wrote. In fact, there were a lot of women involved in this production – casting, sets, editing. That fact alone is worthy of congratulations.
This is the story of the exceptionally turbulent bond between a teen and her mother. It is a struggle of wills between Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and her often cruel-tongued mom (Laurie Metcalf). Bird has chosen a new name for herself in an attempt to escape her past and carve out a new identity. I know I did this when I was in high school. She wants to escape her life and become a new and different person so she can freely explore all of those unopened doors that await a teen blossoming into womanhood. She is a senior in high school in Sacramento and making plans for college. She is thinking East Coast while her mother is thinking local state school. Frankly, Mom tells Bird that she simply does not have the grades or the talent to get into an east coast school. Wow! Quite an ego deflating blow coming from a mom. No wonder they don’t get along.
Mom works double shifts as a nurse to keep the wolf from the door and has to double-down when dad (Tracy Letts) loses his job. So, it is no wonder that mom is a bit snarky. She has some softer moments, too – like when she takes Bird shopping at the thrift store for a prom dress and when they cruise the high-end stores for a gleeful day of window shopping. But mom’s basic persona is caustic.
Cleary, critics saw far more to recommend this movie than I did. They have heralded the town of Sacramento as some sort of sacred site – although I swear I did not really get a sense of being in Sacramento, per se. For me, it could have been any town with two sides of the track and some reasonably mild weather.
I was delighted when Bird took her life into her hands and decided to go East to school. The only way we learned that things were okay between mother and daughter was when Bird called home and professed her continuing love of family.
This is a good movie to stream – since the pickings following the Oscars are really thin. The acting is good and the cast of teens seems authentic. There are also some interesting moments that will have you reflecting on your own perilous teen years. I know I did. So, overall, I’d take a flier on this one.