LADY BIRD

★★★★

THIS IS THE BEST VERSION OF HERSELF

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Jess Fenton
2nd February 2018

Change is good. It means that we can grow and become better versions of ourselves. But every now and then, we arrive at these emotionally crippling impasses in which change seems impossible. I hate those times. I’ve come across far too many in my years, and I know that there are many more to come. Yet no chasm seems wider, deeper or more insurmountable then when we’re in our final year of high school. So much lays before us yet we just stand there, staring at it, hoping it’ll either go away, wish it would hurry up and happen already, or just lie there to shrivel and die. My god, you couldn’t pay me enough to be 18 again. To be a good writer, one must write what one knows. We already know that actor/screenwriter Greta Gerwig is a seasoned, sensational and quirky writer, having gifted us with ‘Mistress America’ and ‘Frances Ha’ in recent years. But now she’s gone semi-autobiographical and decided to take charge behind the camera as well, solo, for once. This once goofy, blonde bit-player is now a formidable triple threat.

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Set in the closing months of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson’s (Saoirse Ronan, ‘Brooklyn’) senior year in high school of 2002, Lady Bird dreams of escaping her home town of Sacramento, California for the east coast and culture while wishing for an experience that will make her more interesting and a good writer. Add to this angst the somewhat manic relationship with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf, 'Scream 2', TV's 'Roseanne'), a woman described at one stage as warm and scary. Deciding to branch out with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein, 'Bad Neighbours 2'), Lady Bird auditions for the school musical and ends up falling for the leading man Danny (Lucas Hedges, 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri', 'Manchester By The Sea', 'Moonrise Kingdom'). While she gains from her much-longed experiences, she gets a few more than she bargained for. Enter relationship number two: Kyle (Timothée Chalamet, 'Call Me By Your Name'), the reclusive cool kid who smokes, rejects cell phones and reads philosophical novels for fun... or possibly image. Behind the scenes, her dad has lost his job and the family is struggling with finances, her mother’s job as a nurse causes her contention to cross over into her family life, and her older brother Miguel (Australia's Jordan Rodrigues, TV's 'The Fosters', 'Dance Academy' and 'Home And Away') is still finding himself.

Filled with a kind of charm and empathy rarely seen from an adult mind, Greta Gerwig exhibits an almost John Hughes-esque voice for the 21st century.

While a coming-of-age story centring around that crossover phase between high school and college is nothing new, it’s the voice behind it that gives it that sparkle - and they don’t come more sparkly than Ms Gerwig. Choosing to base this loosely on her own life, Gerwig has imbued the screenplay with the love, knowledge and hindsight that only someone who has lived such things could possibly translate onto the page.

Being a filmmaker whose talents have always sat on the fringe of success and fame, Gerwig has carefully handpicked her perfect cast to follow suit. Saoirse Ronan leads this almost-famous cast of some of the best young (and older) actors of this generation, including Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, Odeya Rush, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott and Beanie Feldstein.

Filled with the kind of charm and empathy rarely seen from an adult mind, Greta exhibits an almost John Hughes-esque voice for the 21st century. She has proven herself to be a careful and beautiful storyteller, who here thrives in telling that all-too-powerful, painful and empowering transition from adolescence to adulthood while under the watchful eye of a mother who “just loves me too much, is all.”

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