BWW Review: Theatre Stars Shine in the Simple Masterpiece, LADY BIRD
The term "coming of age" is used fairly broadly in films these days. Any movie that focus on a young (or youngish) character who goes through difficulties generally gets this classification. However, often those films put their protagonists through incredibly tragic circumstances to help them find one specific truth as they "come of age."
LADY BIRD, from the mind of writer and director Greta Gerwig, is a coming of age film that avoids the emotionally manipulative deaths, assaults, and addictions that often render the genre repetitive, and instead goes with the authentic difficulties that come with every day life; a hyper-critical, passive-aggressive mother; a father who is depressed because he's lost his job; a high school girl struggling with acceptance and finding her place in her family and in the world. Instead, it is a simple and subtle masterpiece, that digs down to the humor and truth of every day eccentricities.
Despite the fact that Gerwig has steered clear of the more melodramatic tropes, LADY BIRD still maintains remarkable emotional resonance due to the strength of its stars; many of whom have theatrical roots.
The title character, Lady Bird (yes, "Lady Bird" is her given name... given by herself), is a difficult, but unusually insightful high school senior in the early 2000s in Sacramento. Played by two-time Oscar-nominee Saoirse Ronan (the star of last season's CRUCIBLE on Broadway), Lady Bird both loves and feels trapped by her family and hometown.
Her mother is played by Tony and Emmy-winner Laurie Metcalf (A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2 and this spring's THREE TALL WOMEN), and though her tough love can be difficult to watch from the outside, she imbues the role with the warmth and concern that allows you to understand that her nagging genuinely comes from a place of love.
Conversely, Lady Bird's father is played by Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Letts (AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, WHO'S AFRAID OF Virginia Woolf?), and he is the calm, supportive figure in his daughter's life.
The film's cast also includes Beanie Feldstein (HELLO, DOLLY!) as Lady Bird's best friend, Tony-nominees Lois Smith (BURIED CHILD, THE GRAPES OF WRATH) and Stephen McKinley Henderson (FENCES, BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY) as her supportive teachers, and Oscar-nominee Lucas Hedges (YEN) and Lucille Lortel-winner Timothée Chalamet (PRODIGAL SON) as her very different boyfriends.
If the slew of theatre stars isn't enough, the film also includes a high school production of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, which leads to a nice montage of students auditioning with Sondheim songs and cringe-worthy theatre games.
Ultimately, LADY BIRD doesn't give any clean or easy resolutions to its characters' somewhat fractured lives, but for all of these people who are each searching for something, regardless of age, it asks whether love and attention are the same thing, and if one is more valuable than the other.
Check out the trailer for LADY BIRD:
LADY BIRD starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and more is open nationwide. The film is rated R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying.