Monday, November 13, 2017

Greta Gerwig's LADY BIRD: Yes, it's as good as you've heard, but not groundbreaking....

...which, when you think about it, is pretty much what you'd expect from Greta Gerwig as a filmmaker, considering what she's given us, over and over again, as an actress: performances that are genuine, specific, quirky (but never overly so) and absolutely reality-based. That rather covers LADY BIRD, her first solo outing as both writer and director (back in 2008, she co-wrote and co-directed Nights and Weekends with Joe Swanberg). Lady Bird makes the best of her mumblecore roots while allowing the result to rise to a much higher professional level -- without becoming in any way slick. As I say: just about what we would expect from this talented and original young woman, pictured below.

Gerwig sets her movie back in the 1980s, which turns out to be a fine period for it: one not overly concerned with nostalgia for its own sake yet gloriously free from near-constant use of cell phones and the internet.

The filmmaker juggles a good deal of themes here -- from coming-of-age and family problems to the meaning of friendship, fitting in, and even coming out -- and she is so dexterous that one theme surfaces, calls out for our attention and then dips into the next so naturally that we're barely aware of the movement.

Gerwig, as both performer, writer and filmmaker seems to possess an intuitive sense of the psychology of character. Every one of her people in Lady Bird seems as real and as full as his or her connection and importance to the movie requires. There are simply no red flags here.

This begins with the filmmaker's star, that Bronx-born, Ireland-raised wonder, Saoirse Ronan (above and on poster, top), who would seem a perfect choice for the title role and the filmmaker's needs. Ms Ronan ought to have won Best Actress for her fine work in Brooklyn, two years back (she was first nominated for her work in Atonement almost a decade ago); Lady Bird may see her garner a third nomination, as well. The actress brings all the mixed signals and actions of late-adolescence/early-adulthood to her performance, and the result is funny, awful, mesmerizing and more.

As her put-upon mom, Laurie Metcalf (above, left) is just about Ronan's equal, bringing such concern, love and anger to her performance that you will alternately identify and wince, while the amazing Tracy Letts gives another memorable yet self-effacing performance as Lady Bird's kindly but sad dad.

Every single supporting performance here is brought to full, rich life, with special mention going to Beanie Feldstein (above, left) as Lady Bird's overweight and utterly winning friend, Julie; Lois Smith as the nun in her school with more on the ball than we initially imagine; Lucas Hedges (below, left, of Manchester by the Sea), who plays the boy who has too much respect for our heroine to actually touch her boobs; and Odeya Rush as the school's uber-pretty and rich girl who turns out to be -- hey! -- a full-bodied and intelligent character, too.

Gerwig doesn't do heroes and villains. She already understands the mixed bag that we all are, and she's able to communicate this without underlining it -- which makes her movie a double pleasure. I don't want to make great claims for the film because it remains (and clearly wants it so) a small film in every way. Its achievements, however, are many and wonderful. (Simply for the manner in which Gerwig incorporate Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along into her film, I'd watch it all over again.)

Lady Bird -- from A24 and running 93 minutes -- after hitting New York, L.A. and elsewhere, opens here in South Florida this Friday, November 17, in the Miami area at the Coral Gables Art Cinema, AMC's Aventura 24 , O Cinema Miami Beach, Regal's South Beach 18; at the Gateway 4 in Fort Lauderdale; Cobb's Downtown 16 in Palm Beach Gardens; at the Movies of Delray; the Cinepolis Jupiter 14;  and the Cinemark Palace 20 and Regal Shadowood 16 in Boca Raton. Wherever you live, to find the theater nearest you, click here.

No comments: