Okay, I didn't have high hopes for Lady Bird. From the trailer, it looked like it was going to feature one of those indie heroines who's supposed to be adorably quirky, but is really just tiresome — the kind of character so often played by Greta Gerwig (in movies like Damsel In Distress, or Frances Ha).
Knowing that Gerwig wrote and directed this movie only intensified my dread.
But, surprise! With Lady Bird, Gerwig delivers a wry but warm-hearted portrait of family, home, and dreams in modern America. The family in question is not dysfunctional in any clichéd movie comedy way, but Gerwig captures the gulf of potential calamity in the fractious relationship between a high-school senior (Saoirse Ronan) and her loving, but harried mom (Laurie Metcalf).
As in most mother-daughter relationships, one false move or the wrong word might set either one of them off as they try to navigate the mine field of what they think or feel, and their ability (or not) to express it.
|Ronan and Metcalf: Driving through the minefield|
Ronan plays Christine, who calls herself "Lady Bird," and is facing her senior year at a Catholic girls school in the suburbs of the state capital.
She has few scholastic ambitions, but she's eager to leave the nest and fledge, preferably to a college on the East Coast "where culture is." Unlike Sacramento, which she calls "the Midwest of California."
The plot is episodic as the school year scrolls by. But Gerwig's most trenchant observations concern issues as eternal a time itself — the elliptical orbits of friendship; separating the reality of sex from its romantic mythology; the often fraught, but fiercely devoted relations between parents and children.