Lady Bird is much the same, perhaps even more so. This is Gerwig’s directorial debut and her first project without her partner Noah Baumbach, who she’s worked since 2011, co-writing charming dramedy Mistress America and Girls/Woody Allen-esque Frances Ha.
This is undoubtedly her best work. There is absolutely no waste material in this coming-of-age drama, loosely based on Gerwig’s own experiences as a teenager in sunny Sacramento (the ‘Midwest of California’).
Saoirse Ronan leads as Christine, self-christened 'Lady Bird', a sparky 17-year old with more ambition than talent, not that she’s at all discouraged by that. Nothing, not even her family’s money troubles, will stop her in her quest to study in New York.
Buoyed by her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein), Christine attempts to navigate the choppy waters of young adulthood/late childhood with a sort of careless confidence or naive self-assurance that can only end in deliciously cringeworthy moments. Many of those come courtesy of the boys she dates – the gauche Danny (Lucas Hedges) and the too-cool-for-school Kyle (Timothée Chalamet), both brilliant.
Ronan inhabits this version of Gerwig so convincing you have to remind yourself you’re not watching Gerwig herself (who also sported a shock of red hair in 20th Century Women).
At the same time it feels like Ronan comes into her own. The film is in her hands when she rattles off witticisms and launches verbal missiles that either help lead a scene to safety or dash it on the rocks – all provided by what has surely got to be the finest screenplay produced this year, written by Gerwig herself.
Christine’s sharpness manages to tenderise her already mild-mannered father (Tracy Letts) with whom she shares some short and sweet moments. But she meets her match in her mother – overworked, underpaid – played by Laurie Metcalf with such warmth and ice and naturalistic flair that she almost steals the show.
That Metcalf feels underused points to the one issue with Lady Bird: its lean length. Gerwig tackles self-doubt, betrayal, sexuality, depression, religion, the menacing hum of the Iraq war (it’s set in 2002) and more in 93 minutes. It’s kind of like life which can throw more at you than you handle at once. But you wish this occasionally breathtaking film were a little less breathless.
Of course, that complaint is really just another way of saying we wanted more.
|What||Lady Bird film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
16 Feb 18 – 16 Feb 19, TIMES VARY
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more information|