The first note I wrote here when getting started was simple: “endless charm and heart”. I just had a huge smile on my face nearly the entire time watching this. It’s always interesting when actors move to directing, you get to find out just how much you knew about them, what their interests in storytelling and filmmaking really are. Greta Gerwig makes the move and sticks the landing with affection and poignancy. Gerwig has crafted a wonderful solo directorial debut, one without the flaws you’d expect from a debut. Lady Bird follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson living in Sacramento throughout her senior year of high school at a Catholic school as college looms on the horizon.
Saoirse Ronan has been atop the power rankings of her generation since she got started over a decade ago. She’s yet to give a lacking performance in her career, which is impressive for how young she was when she got started. It’s hard not to describe her performance as Lady Bird without superlatives and buzz words like “award worthy” and “career best”. She’s just that great here, and I’m finding it difficult to find the words that describe why. She just knows the value of being in the moment, her intuition is just beyond her years. She’ll make you laugh with her neurotic tendencies and just warm your heart with the love she discovers she has for those around her. She just keeps you with her every scene. 10 years after her first Oscar nomination, she could be gearing up for a 3rd run at the award.
Laurie Metcalf is equally incredible as Lady Bird’s mother. The chemistry between Metcalf and Ronan is just so believable. They’ll go from loving to arguing in a split second and back, they feel as if they are family and their interactions remind you of your own. I’m glad Lucas Hedges isn’t going to be a one hit wonder after Manchester By the Sea. When somebody hits Oscar nod heights so early, you worry that they might just fall off after that. Ronan didn’t, and Hedges isn’t either. There’s a scene between them that is just heart wrenching yet equally heartwarming in the raw emotion they share – you’ll know it when you see it. There’s not a lacking turn amongst this cast, with Tracy Letts, Lois Smith, Timothee Chalamet and Beanie Feldstein contributing quality screen time.
I’ve always liked watching Gerwig act, she’s one of those actresses that’s great even when the film isn’t. I’ve had stock in her since The House of the Devil. Turns out I also love watching her direct! I had concerns she might adopt the worst qualities of her partner Noah Baumbach, but she didn’t! She perfected them! Gerwig can make the stereotypes in her characters feel universal, she can make their worst parts feel relatable and intimate. Her comedic timing is impeccable, as is her sense of emotion and drama. Each character gets moments to be human and you just feel in any other film this wouldn’t have happened. There are certain characters that would just be side jokes in any other film, but here Gerwig gives them all their dues to remind us they’re people too. Gerwig and cinematographer Sam Levy photograph Sacramento affectionately. The colors are warm yet authentic, drawing on natural light to lovingly highlight the city. It’s about finding the love for where you came from, and realizing the pains of your family and everything they’ve done for you. Good or bad, there is always love with them. I’m putting Gerwig on google alert, as I’m eagerly awaiting news on anything she directs now.
An earlier version of this article mistaked the amount of Oscar nominations Ronan already has, she has two – Atonement (2007) and Brooklyn (2015).