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FILM REVIEW: "Ladybird"

Lucas Hedges and Saoirse Ronan in Greta Gerwig's "Ladybird".
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Rusty's Score
4.5 Rustys

Life after high school is most people’s first real brush with impending responsibilities and the cutting down of the safety net your parents kept up for you. Your friends are moving away and if they aren’t, they will be too busy to hang around like before. The walk to receive your diploma is the ultimate division of the previous 18 years and how you decide to live your life afterward. Perhaps you move away to find yourself only to return and learn your previous 18 years are what defined you and not your desire for something more.

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) feels so above her hometown of Sacramento and her upbringing that she has changed her given name to Lady Bird.

“I gave it to myself. It’s given to me by me,” she says.

Set in the fall of 2002 in a prominent post-9/11 world, senior year consists of Christine scraping by in school until she can, hopefully, move out-of-state. Her mother (Laurie Metcalf) works double shifts at the hospital while her father (Tracy Letts) is unemployed. Christine, like most high school kids, doesn’t understand the unprecedented support her parents give her.

Sacramento does nothing but hold Christine down. She knows she’s better than the Catholic high school she attends or the people that populate it. Yet she struggles with her studies because stargazing becomes her primary objective in her senior year. She meets a very proper and sweet boy named Danny (Lucas Hedges) and joins the theatre program. As the months start to fall in anticipation of graduation, Christine’s relationship with her mom becomes more strained and her friends start to quickly fall through because of Christine’s decisions. The life she has lined up for her isn’t going to happen like she expects.

In her solo directorial debut, writer-director Greta Gerwig took inspiration from Richard Linklater’s epic Boyhood and most specifically Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. This isn’t a coming-of-age tale that shows how a female character moves through a world while inevitably learning about herself through the men she comes in contact with. It’s a more serious The Edge of Seventeen, but that film is also honest with its portrayal of teenage life and Lady Bird is also quite hilarious.

It’s a coming-of-age tale as much as it is a film about loss. Christine is growing up while her mother has to go through the days realizing Christine thinks her home is just an inconvenient 18-year standstill before she can fly out to college.

“I wanted to make the movie that Lady Bird thinks she’s in, but not that movie,” Greta Gerwig said in an interview with Q On CBC. Christine believes that if she dates the wholesome Catholic kid that her life will be like a John Hughes film and live happily ever after.

Lady Bird doesn’t exactly bring much to the table as far as original ideas but that doesn’t make a film worthy of praise. I say this because the inevitable backlash for this film will be coming very soon and that will be used to downplay its greatness. There’s plenty of “original” films that fail and plenty of by-the-books films that get remembered forever. A film can be incredible just by understanding what it can do right within the parameters of the story it needs to tell. It excels over previous films by the star-making performance of Ronan along with the delicate and endearing eye of Gerwig.

Better films have been released this year but none have reached me like Lady Bird, but the ending still leaves me cold after multiple viewings. Open-ended and non-traditional conclusions are great because tying all the plot points together before the credits can hinder creativity if you feel you must go the traditional Hollywood route and make sure everyone goes home feeling fantastic. That being said, I needed literally one more minute to breathe with this ending. It feels the slightest bit rushed. You’d think that would ruin the film for me, but the ending still gut punches you with a series of emotions that even the rest of the film’s emotional high-points don’t get to. It’s a small chip to the wonderfully vibrant statue Gerwig has crafted years before she even started writing the script.

It’s a fantastic story that Gerwig revolves around realistic characters going through situations almost everyone in the audience has dealt with. It’s easy to connect with audiences and will continue to inspire well after next year’s Oscars end. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are strong contenders for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress with their astounding chemistry through the turmoil of growing up and letting go.

Sacramento is what brings everything together. Ronan’s character realizes being observant of the city is the same as being in love with it before she can categorize what those feelings mean. Driving through the spots that have inspired her to reach for something more. Leaving your previous spot of residence should be equal parts heartbreaking and liberating. Lady Bird was born to do more than juggle jobs in her hometown, but Sacramento will never leave her.

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About the Author

Kevin Tudor

Born and raised in the mean streets of Yukon, Oklahoma, Kevin is currently majoring in...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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