Lady Bird movie review

For inSing

LADY BIRD

Director : Greta Gerwig
Cast : Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Beanie Feldstein, Odeya Rush, Lois Smith, Jordan Rodrigues, Stephen Henderson, Jake McDorman
Genre : Drama/Comedy
Run Time : 1h 34m
Opens : 12 February 2018
Rating : M18

Lady Bird is one of the last big awards season contenders to arrive on our shores. After an excellent showing at the Golden Globes and five Oscar nominations, this little movie comes with big hype.

‘Lady Bird’ is what the title character, Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), calls herself. It is 2002, and Lady Bird is a high school senior in Sacramento. She has a contentious relationship with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf), and is constantly trying to assert her own identity. She also doesn’t quite get along with her adopted older brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues), whose girlfriend Shelly (Marielle Scott) lives with Lady Bird and her family.

Lady Bird dreams of going to college in New York, but her mother insists on her going to one in California instead. The family is weathering financial difficulty, with Lady Bird’s father Larry (Tracy Letts) struggling to make ends meet. Lady Bird develops a crush on Danny (Lucas Hedges), her co-star in the school’s production of Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. She also has feelings for the cool musician Kyle (Timothée Chalamet).

Lady Bird’s desire for the acceptance of Kyle’s friend, the wealthy and popular Jenna (Odeya Rush), drives a wedge between Lady Bird and her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein). Lady Bird undergoes formative experiences as she figures out who she’ll become and works through her relationships with those who care about her and, though she won’t admit it, whom she cares for too.

The film has enjoyed an immensely positive reception, with a 99% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps it’s not fair to expect Lady Bird to be the greatest movie ever made and a life-changing rapture, but it is excellent as what it is – a coming-of-age indie comedy-drama.

Writer-director Greta Gerwig has created a film that’s personal but not self-indulgent, executing a masterful balancing act. Indie darlings are often either quite dull or stuffed with histrionics. It’s challenging to keep the dial centred, and Gerwig has more than succeeded. Lady Bird is never boring, but its characters don’t feel like overblown caricatures. Some interactions between characters are perhaps a little more heightened than they’d be in real life, but the film remains easy to connect to throughout.

The film’s authenticity comes in part from how Gerwig draws on her own experiences: like Lady Bird, Gerwig grew up in Sacramento, her mother was a nurse, and she attended an all-girls Catholic high school. Gerwig has gone from being one of the more prominent stars of the ‘mumblecore’ indie film movement to only the fifth woman in history to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar. Perhaps her own experience as an actress has helped her draw out entertaining, sensitive and authentic performances from her cast.

The preternaturally talented Saoirse Ronan once again proves herself as among the finest young actors working. Lady Bird could easily have come off as obnoxious and insufferable, so it’s to Ronan’s credit that she is easy to root for – not despite, but because of her flaws. The character’s search for a direction in life, the tension between her and her parents, her sexual awakening and romantic relationships, and her angst towards her hometown – these are all things that teenagers have grappled with in one form or another. The balance of the universal and the specific is something that crystallises in Ronan’s portrayal of Lady Bird.

The testy bond between Lady Bird and her mother is something that has resonated strongly with audiences – Metcalf has said in interviews that people have told her that the film made them want to call their mothers afterwards. There is never any doubt that Marion loves her daughter, but even parents with the best intentions have difficulty articulating their love for their children. The film makes it easy to see things from both Lady Bird’s and Marion’s sides, with Metcalf taking great care in giving the character enough layers.

Letts, who often plays imperious, unyielding authority figures, brings welcome warmth to the role of Lady Bird’s father Larry. Larry must often be the mediator, since his wife and daughter are so headstrong, and he gets caught in the middle. He also bears the burden of the family’s financial difficulties but internalises this to try and minimise the heartache for everyone else, something many fathers can relate to.

Both of Lady Bird’s love interests are sufficiently distinct: Hedges’ Danny is awkward and sweet, while Chalamet’s Kyle is the artsy rebel-philosopher. This is different from your typical love triangle, and Lady Bird always retains agency such that it never feels like the plot device of a requisite romance is the driving force of the narrative.

The film’s depiction of high school friendship dynamics rings true as well – the way Lady Bird and Julie grow apart when Lady Bird gets accepted by the popular kids is handled with a little too much drama, but Ronan and Feldstein share excellent chemistry.

The way the authority figures are portrayed demonstrates the film’s maturity – the nuns and priests who run the Catholic school aren’t monstrous or ridiculously strict, they’re just a little detached from their charges because of the generation gap. Some fun is had at the expense of religion, but it never registers as bald-faced mockery.

Lady Bird is better approached as a low-key indie gem than as a masterpiece that will change the face of cinema forever. That’s not to downplay the accomplishments of its cast and crew, but one might be better positioned to take in the film’s gentle humour and quiet wisdom without the awards season baggage attached. Lady Bird is just that little bit more relatable, more entertaining and more personal than your typical coming-of-age film, benefitting from its writer-director’s perspective and its leading lady’s significant skill.

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Brooklyn

For F*** Magazine

BROOKLYN 

Director : John Crowley
Cast : Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters
Genre : Drama
Run Time : 1 hr 52 mins
Opens : 18 February 2016
Rating : NC-16 (Sexual Scene)

One heart is torn between two lands in this historical romance. Said heart belongs to Eilis Lacey (Ronan), a young woman from the small Irish town of Enniscorthy. Eilis’ older sister Rose (Glascott) arranges for Eilis to go to Brooklyn in search of better prospects, Eilis leaving Rose and their mother (Jane Brennan) behind. Father Flood (Broadbent), a priest active in the Irish community in Brooklyn, arranges for Eilis to stay in a boarding house run by the landlady Madge Kehoe (Walters). Father Flood also enrols Eilis in bookkeeping classes at a night school. Eilis meets and soon falls in love with Tony Fiorello (Cohen), a plumber from an Italian family. When Eilis returns to Ireland after a family emergency, she begins spending time with eligible bachelor Jim Farrell (Gleeson), a mutual acquaintance of Eilis’ best friend Nancy (Eileen O’Higgins). The small Enniscorthy community, unaware that Eilis is already in a relationship with an American boy, expects her and Jim to end up together. Eilis begins to re-evaluate the future she has planned, feeling the pull of home and of the promise of a bright future in Brooklyn.

            Brooklyn is based on the novel of the same name by Irish author Colm Tóibín, adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby. This is not a particularly grand story, but the intimacy and honesty of the tale draws one in. Director John Crowley has crafted a drama that is earnest and wonderfully devoid of cynicism. It’s a throwback to a bygone era without being self-conscious and it captures the period in eminently relatable fashion. While Eilis is meant to represent any number of young Irish girls stepping across the pond to forge new lives in America, the story doesn’t sacrifice the character’s individuality in the process. Its portrayal of the immigrant experience is quietly stirring and thoughtful rather than overtly political. Tonally, Brooklyn hits all the right marks to make a maximum impact: there’s a pervading melancholy that achingly conveys what it feels like to be homesick, but the film never becomes dreary and Hornby’s script contains well-placed moments of wit and humour.

            Ronan reminds us yet again why she’s among the finest performers of her generation, Brooklyn capitalising on her talents in the best way possible – she gets to use her delightful natural Irish brogue, for one. The blend of impish charm, raw vulnerability and emotional depth that Ronan brings to the role of Eilis is ever so appealing. The audience is in her corner from minute one and it is satisfying to see the initially tremulous Eilis’ confidence gradually increase as she becomes accustomed to her new life in Brooklyn. As an Irish-American herself, Ronan says she identifies strongly with Eilis’ journey. With this role, Ronan has become the second-youngest actress to be nominated for two Oscars. One hopes that many more projects like Brooklynfind their way to her.

The film’s portrayal of young love is clear-eyed and just sentimental enough, Cohen endearingly awkward and just sweet as can be as Eilis’ suitor Tony. The “aww shucks” factor he brings to the part comes off as genuine and wistfully romantic without straying into sappiness. We’re cheering for Eilis and Tony to stay together, so Gleeson has an uphill battle in making Jim seem like anything more than a nuisance. His measured dignity ensures there is an actual conflict as to who Eilis ends up with. Walters and Broadbent are perfectly cast as the stern, traditional landlady and the kindly priest respectively. Eilis’ housemates are sometimes catty, but the girls do form a certain camaraderie. A scene in which two of them teach Eilis how to twirl spaghetti without making a mess, in preparation for Eilis’ visit to Tony’s house for dinner, is amusing and heartfelt.

            Brooklyn is comprised of several conventional narrative elements, but it ends up being far more than the sum of its parts. This is a relatively simple story that is absolutely captivating, a romance that is sweet but not cloying, a drama that is heart-rending yet not manipulative. The specificities of the setting and the care taken in realising the 50s Brooklyn and Enniscorthy locales imbue the movie with texture and authenticity. It’s old-fashioned but steers clear of stifling stodginess and is resonant even if one doesn’t have a personal connection to the specific culture and period depicted. Lyrical, engaging and sincere, Brooklyn is a work of disarming beauty.

Summary:Personal and richly humane, Brooklyn is a small tale gracefully told, carried by a glowing, transcendent performance from Saoirse Ronan.

RATING: 4.5out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong