kevinyang’s review published on Letterboxd:
It's good! It's one of those well-made films that has nothing glaringly wrong with it and is impossible to hate because of the palpable passion behind the camera. However, it's also one of those films that seems to get its mileage out of how much the audience connects with it, and any connection to it for me is on a smaller and more transient level. There are little moments throughout that are stunningly beautiful in their simplicity--a few pieces of paper late in the film hold a tremendous amount of power--but Gerwig's slice of life approach doesn't always translate to meaningful depth for every character and dynamic. I'm left marveling at a few select sequences and appreciating Gerwig's grounded approach, but I'm also left wondering "Is that it?" as the credits roll. Clearly the approach here is true to real life, and perhaps the hype influenced my slightly underwhelmed reaction, but the film overall doesn't quite have that element that pushes its collective whole into "great" territory. It's solid but not special. And you know, that's perfectly fine.
In and of itself, the one truly great element is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother. Ronan and Metcalf are both fantastic here, and it's within their scenes where Gerwig's vision truly crystallizes. The mother-daughter dynamic encompasses all the messiness of life, the push and pull of what's in front of you and what's behind you. The single most important theme of the film is arguably contradiction, precisely because life is about the contradictions that allow you to learn and grow and hate people and love people. Contradictions are a part of growing up, maybe taking the form of a hometown you can't help but feel connected to or a future you can't help but long for. And maybe you're sick of certain people but you really do love them but you don't express that in the best of ways. And maybe you're arguing with someone and then you see a dress you both like and then everything is okay for just a moment. And maybe you're just changing, and you have no idea who you're going to be and "I don't know" is the prevailing question in your life. In the end, you live and thrive in those contradictions, and raising someone you love can become something joyously grueling. Being raised by someone you love can be beautifully frustrating. On a surface level, raising a child is ultimately a transitional and biological mechanism of life, but there's something very meaningful to be said about those formative years. And all of it can be glimpsed in the tiny frailty of a rearview mirror, captured in the most fleeting of glances but tinged with the endurance of hope and love.
B (note: I upped this to 4/B+ on second viewing, as I liked it significantly more. Perhaps I'll write another review someday)
-Tracy Letts was basically ignored during the Q&A and I demand a redo.