Two years ago, come Oscar time, Saoirse Ronan starred in "Brooklyn," a coming-of-age film of a girl from Ireland who went to seek her fortune in New York City. That film earned three nominations, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress for Ronan.
This year, Ronan is again starring in a coming-of-age film about a girl from Sacramento who also wanted to seek her fortune in New York City. This new film "Lady Bird" won five Oscar nods, including Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actress and again Best Actress for Ronan.
The year is 2002. Christine "Lady Bird" MacPherson is a high school senior in a Catholic school in Sacramento, California. Her interests are in the arts and she believes that she has to leave her home town and go to the East Coast to find culture. In between her mother sermonizing and her father losing his job, she spends her senior year joining the theater club, getting romantically involved, and choosing the college she wishes to attend.
Ronan is really one simply sincere actress. I've seen her breakthrough film "Atonement" where she earned her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress at age 13. Since then, it does not seem she is doing any acting at all. She seems so naturally quirky, her character's idiosyncrasies do not look put on. While millennials will totally identify with what Lady Bird going through, I could not. Lady Bird is a girl who knows what she wants, and will do anything she needs to do to get it. Watching this film from a parent's point of view, I could not help but find Lady Bird as bratty and disrespectful to her mother.
This is why I preferred the performance of Laurie Metcalf as Marion, Lady Bird's loving but exasperated mother. Parents in the audience can all identify with her frustrations in trying to talk some sense to a headstrong teenage kid. I only remember Metcalf from her role as Rosanne's sister Jackie on TV during the entire run of that series from 1988 to 1997. This role earned Metcalf three consecutive Emmys for supporting actress in a comedy from 1992 -94. I think this would be the first time I had seen her again since then. She would have had a good chance to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, were it not for Allison Janney's abusive mother character in "I, Tonya" which was more bombastic than Mercalf's strong-willed mother character here.
Tracy Letts (whom I also saw in "The Post") played Lady Bird's gentle father Larry. He is the calming presence in their turbulent household. Lucas Hedges (Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor in "Manchester by the Sea" last year) plays Danny O'Neill, Lady Bird's crush in the theater club, who in turn had his own separate interests. Timothee Chalamet (the youngest ever Oscar Best Actor nominee for his breakthrough film "Call Me By Your Name" this year) was a big surprise to see here as the snobbish cad Kyle, the boyfriend girls fall for, but parents dread.
Maybe it is the fact that this film was written by Greta Gerwig as her solo directorial debut that gave it added sheen. I first heard about Gerwig back in 2012 for the film "Francis Ha" which she co-wrote with director Noah Baumbach and starred in the lead role. The set-up of that film was something like this one too -- just depictions of regular daily goings-on for the lead character. But then again, it's just that -- a mundane reflection of suburban life in America, this time from a teenager's point of view.
"Lady Bird" is not a bad film as it depicts realistic family dynamics, but I think it may not be enough to win as Best Picture. 7/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."