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dir-scr Greta Gerwig
prd Eli Bush, Evelyn O'Neill, Scott Rudin
with Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Odeya Rush, Lois Smith, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott, Jake McDorman, Stephen McKinley Henderson
release US 3.Nov.17, UK 16.Feb.17
Great expectations: Ronan and Metcalf
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Actor-filmmaker Greta Gerwig tells a strongly resonant, defiantly original coming-of-age tale in which the important life lesson is the realisation that there are no answers. It's a funny, warmly astute story packed with wonderfully vivid characters who face their lives with their own distinct perspectives. And a particularly strong cast makes the most of them.
At 18, Christine (Ronan) has changed her name to Lady Bird. Determined to escape from Sacramento, she's secretly applying to universities in New York. Her father (Letts) is sympathetic, but her mother (Metcalf) wants her to study locally, like older brother Miguel (Rodrigues), who now lives at home with girlfriend Shelly (Scott). Meanwhile, Lady Bird joins drama club with her best pal Julie (Feldstein) and falls for lead actor Danny (Hedges). But she also has an eye for brooding rocker Kyle (Chalamet), so she befriends popular mean girl Jenna (Rush) to get closer to him.
The film is refreshingly loose, with a witty sense of jagged humour that infuses every scene, often in snarky ways that catch us off guard. Gerwig cleverly avoids adding pointed meaning to anything that happens; the only point seems to be that Lady Bird needs to stop trying so hard to live up to her own expectations, which are taking her nowhere. Her experiences feel bracingly real, from her fractious relationship with her loving but intense mother to her romantic encounters with each boy.
Ronan shines as always, bringing an earthy authenticity that's easy to relate too. All of Lady Bird's thoughts and emotions ripple across her face. They may not make any sense, but we know the feeling all too well. Her scenes with Metcalf are particularly strong, giving both actresses a chance to dig deep into their characters. While the male roles are a little more one-note, they're also very finely played. And Feldstein and Rush get a bit more complexity in their superb scenes with Ronan.
Where this goes is handled with both delicacy and transparency. Even with some outrageously funny moments, Gerwig never over-eggs Lady Bird's odyssey as she goes through her senior year of high school. Like most of us, she's a little too confident about her future, and also perhaps not quite ready for the realities ahead. But there's a terrific sense that she's becoming ready for the surprises that are in store. It's a lovely reminder that figuring out who we are isn't an easy task. And that it's never finished.
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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