Lady Bird

Lady Bird ★★★★½

As someone who grew up in a boring California suburb in high school and kept complaining that they belonged in the East Coast "where culture is", I totally relate. Honestly, I was a little nervous about watching Lady Bird. I've seen so many of these kinda funny, kinda melancholic, kinda low stakes coming of age stories in recent years that I got kinda sick of them. At some point, you realize that they're just saying the same thing over and over again in slightly different ways with varying degrees of twee. Thankfully, Lady Bird is able to stand out from the pack, bringing forth a story that feels immediately compelling, personal, and fresh. It's ideas about home and security and belonging are really interesting and well written, never handholding the audience through excessive, dramatic narration, instead letting the characters' decisions play for themselves.

Saoirse Ronan is flat out fantastic. She's like an accent chameleon, and if this was the only movie you'd seen her in, you'd never guess that she was Irish. She's able to play every scene just right, without ever falling into the "moody teenage girl" archetype that you see in these movies. It's a great tough/tender performance that conveys a multidimensionality to the character. Laurie Metcalf is another standout too. Similar to Ronan, she makes sure that her character is never too cruel or too saccharine. So often, coming of age movies paint the "difficult mother" as either cruel dictators or misunderstood saints. Metcalf makes sure we see her as just a person stuck in a difficult situation that hasn't necessarily been given the tools to deal with said situation in the most effective way. Ronan's and Metcalf's relationship is essentially the crux of the film, and the way it evolves hits just the right notes, easily dodging hurdles that hold back similarly themed coming of age movies.

Greta Gerwig's made a really special movie here. It's unassuming enough that there's a chance that it could get looked over. But for those willing to give it a shot, they'll find a deceptively emotional, funny, adorable, and heartbreaking story about a girl who wants to figure out what home is.

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