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Lady Bird

Lady_bird_banner1Teen movies are a tricky balancing act. There is a risk of overindulging the teenage angst and becoming a whine-fest, but if handled right they can be genuinely touching and moving. The deciding factor is humour – if we laugh with (rather than at) the growing pains of the teenage characters, we are more likely to care about those pains. Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird excels in this respect, as the tale of Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a teenager on the cusp of adulthood, is by turns witty and laugh out loud funny, which facilitates it being touching and, when it needs to be, heartbreaking. Gerwig and Ronan’s key tactic is not shying away from the absurdity of teenage emotional intensity, while at the same time rounding out the characters so that their troubles are engaging rather than irritating. Lady Bird herself is deeply pretentious with her notions of perfect ‘culture’ in an East Coast college and the banality of life in Sacramento. The film makes no apology for its protagonist being exasperating because her complaining is balanced with moments of joy and delight. The boys that she liaises with offer smart variety: Danny O’Neill (Lucas Hedges, clearly the guy to cast if you want nominations for your film after Manchester By The Sea and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) seems ideal but features more than meets the eye; Kyle Scheible (Timothée Chalamet, also clearly an awards charm with Call Me By Your Name) is a teenage hipster who (apparently) offers such depth that Lady Bird cannot help but swoon. Some fine adults balance out the horribly talented ‘kids’, especially Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird’s long-suffering mother Marion while Tracy Letts brings a cuddly weariness to Lady Bird’s father Larry. The scenes at Lady Bird’s Catholic school are initially toe-curling, but the staff of this institution, including Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith) and Father Leviatch (Stephen McKinley Henderson), provide unexpected humour and pathos. Gerwig’s light direction eschews ostentation, often capturing figures in long and medium shots that place the characters within their community. This is another aspect of the film’s warmth, as its presentation of Sacramento is as affectionate as its treatment of the characters. Lady Bird is therefore a rare treat – a teen dramedy of genuine warmth that offers something for all ages.

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6 Comments

  1. […] varied award bait to adaptations of video games, novels and stage plays, franchise instalments to indie gems, January to June provided film delights aplenty. Now at the half-year point, I offer my top six of […]

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