At a point roughly midway through Greta Gerwig’s first solo directorial effort, Lady Bird, the eponymous Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn) is pulled into the principal’s office to discuss her college essay. “It’s clear you love Sacramento,” the principal remarks. “Yeah, well, I guess I pay attention,” Lady Bird responds, attempting to slough off the compliment. This moment comes after Lady Bird has spent an entire car ride railing against Sacramento, which—in Lady Bird’s estimation—is a cultural wasteland in comparison to East Coast cities like New York. The principal then asks, “Don’t you think that’s the same thing?”
Lady Bird chronicles the senior year of Lady Bird’s high school experience. Over the course of the year, she comes to express her restlessness and anxiousness to break free of Sacramento through her shifting friendships and romances, her frustration with her parents’ control over her, and her giddy excitement every time a college application response envelope shows up at her front door. She tries new activities, hangs out with a different crowd, and listens to new music in an attempt to release the excited energy of possibility that bubbles up at the cusp of college life. Gerwig’s narrative eschews typical coming-of-age plot structure, instead allowing the meandering of the first two acts of this story, comprised of the lethargic mundanity of all the aforementioned frustrations, to give way to a spectacular finish that helps jolt the picture awake, both energetically and emotionally.
Greta Gerwig’s ode to young adulthood is saturated with moments that recall the waning hours of one’s high school years. It is a film full of nostalgia for a time of possibility and anxious excitement. But it’s also a film that reflects on the lost moments of this chaotic time. Throughout the film, Lady Bird is a character who so desperately attempts to wrest her own identity and change the course or the predestined path that others seem to impose upon her (when asked if Lady Bird is her given name, she remarks, “Yes, it’s given to me, by me.”) that she never lets herself understand the perspectives of those around her. In doggedly attempting to carve her own path, she misses the ways that the place she’s lived all her life has shaped who she is and will come to be.
Many films about adolescence attempt to capture the frustration of trying to be or become one person while the world wants you to become something else. Writer-director Gerwig understands that the true dilemma is not knowing who you want to be and failing to recognize the ways others have shaped you. Lady Bird may meander a bit in its first two acts, but its end is so intentionally reflective and conclusive that I can’t help but admit the journey was worth it. It’s a film that understands the process of growing up can be both a process of growing away from one’s roots while still growing from those roots.
The manga adaptation has James Cameron’s signature theatrics but fails in other aspects.
The sequel so nice we had to Marcelo and Rockie to review it.
The pairing of Steven Soderbergh and Netflix makes for a standout film.
Shudder’s documentary on the history of African-Americans in horror is a must-see for all movie lovers.
Gina Rodriguez rises to the occasion, even if the film itself does not.
M. Night’s latest is a weird, wild ride.
While a rehash of the original, there’s still enough spark in this sequel to bring you plenty of joy.
Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel is a grand achievement on all fronts.
A by-the-numbers family drama that is elevated by great performances from Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges.
James Wan’s latest is a refreshing wave of fun.
A powerful cast and an attempt to humanize Dick Cheney makes for an impressive achievement.
The Palme d'Or winner is a warm, empathetic look at a family against the backdrop of a moral quandary.
The steampunk action film is more successful at spectacle than storytelling, but cities eat each other so it’s still a good time.
Dive into one of the best animated films of the year.
The new Alfonso Cuarón film is one of his best and should be seen on the biggest screen possible.
Featuring awards-worthy performances, the new film by Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the best of the year.
Bad Robot’s latest surprise film is an exciting and tense throwback that hates Nazis. So obviously we love it.
The new Dragon Tattoo tale turns out to be a missed opportunity.
Netflix brings Orson Welles’s final masterpiece to a screen near you.
The sub-genre gets an adequate addition.
There are plenty of good times to be had at The El Royale, even if the mystery never quite adds up.
A mashup of supernatural horror and period piece that mostly works.
Damien Chazelle’s latest is a harrowing and humane examination of an icon.
Jamie Lee Curtis is back in the Halloween follow-up fans have been waiting for.
Star turns from both Lady Gaga and director, Bradley Cooper, make A Star Is Bornˆa tale worth telling again and again.
Venom is a fascinating failure, thanks mostly to whatever Tom Hardy is doing.
Great themes are often undercut by stylistic choices in this timely but uneven teen thriller.
Karyn Kusama and Nicole Kidman bring you one of the best films of the year.
Guadagnino’s take on Suspiria honors the original while cutting its own path.
If this is truly Robert Redford’s last film, it’s a fun and fitting send-off.