Hot Take: Best movie of the year so far. Maybe the best “coming-of-age” film of all-time?
The biggest shame of Lady Bird is that you’re probably not going to see it. In its 5th weekend in theaters, the film expanded to 1,194 theaters and has earned a modest $17.1 million during its run at the box office. That’s not bad for an art house flick with a $10 million budget written and directed by first time solo writer/director (she’s co-directed and co-written previously) and art house darling Greta Gerwig. Featuring marvelous performances by Saoirse Ronan (in the titular role), Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges and Beanie Feldstein. I’m leaving out a few names and it feels wrong because of how brilliantly performed from top to bottom this film is. Lady Bird will surely be an Oscar contender and should garner more than just a Best Picture nod as anything less than 4 nominations (Best Picture, Gerwig for Best Screenplay, Ronan for Best Actress and Metcalf for Best Supporting Actress) would be criminal. It’s deeply funny but paints a stroke with every color on the emotional spectrum with fully developed characters and an unexpected depth few films possess. It’s rare to walk out of a film and face the temptation to walk over to the ticket booth and buy another ticket to see it again but Lady Bird did exactly that. It’s a brilliant piece of work and (so far) my choice for best film of 2017.
Lady Bird follows the story of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Ronan) and her senior year at a Catholic high school in Sacramento in 2002. It follows her complicated and difficult relationship with her mother Marion (Metcalf), her slightly less complicated and closer relationship with her father Larry (Letts) and her struggles with fitting in on a daily basis in high school and her attempts to do just that throughout her senior year. She drifts apart from her best friend Julie (Feldstein) and becomes friends with a different group of high schoolers and deals with all of the challenges that brings. It’s hard to go on describing the film without dropping spoilers so I’ll stop there but the short description does the film no justice. You’re going to have to trust me (and the 170 positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes) that Lady Bird is nearly flawless in its execution and is some form of redemption for what has essentially been a down year for quality at the cineplex in 2017.
Don’t think naming Lady Bird the best film of 2017 is damning with faint praise considering how lackluster this year has been. Lady Bird is the best film in the last two years. Since launching this site in 2015, only Room has been better. Even with Room, I didn’t instantly walk out wanting to see again. (Room just isn’t that type of movie, though, in fairness.) Gerwig’s passion for her hometown of Sacramento is evident and her ability to capture a “coming-of-age” tale inspired. There’s a sweetness about the film but it’s masked by the bitter, biting wit of its main character and a top notch performance by Ronan who, at age 23, is destined for her 3rd Academy Award nomination (She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 2008 for Atonement and for Best Actress in 2016 for Brooklyn). Few movies accomplish in 120 minutes what Lady Bird is able to pull off in 93. It wastes no time in getting its point across and delivers one of the most satisfying experiences in theaters in some time. Success for films such as this bode well for the cineplex and the type of films that end up getting wider releases. Let’s hope Lady Bird starts a trend.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
Even though I was more impressed by Ronan’s performance, Metcalf has the easiest path to an award. (There’s not Frances McDormand standing in her way.) Metcalf and Ronan in the strained mother/daughter role nail an impressive and magnetic dual performance that feels as real as any parent/teen relationship we’ve seen on screen.
A24 continues to be the most impressive studio in Hollywood. Even though 2017 hasn’t been their best year, A24 has managed to release a number of excellent films including Lady Bird and one of my other 2017 favorites, A Ghost Story. Having not seen The Florida Project, The Killing of a Sacred Deer or The Disaster Artist, there’s still a chance A24’s 2017 resume is bolstered even more. Even if it doesn’t it has 2016’s Moonlight (Best Picture Winner) and 2015’s Room (Best Picture Nominee) to fall back on. Not a bad little run for the studio which started releasing films in 2013.
- Go Small Or Go Home
It’s easy to “go big” but it’s the film that does the little things well that can really capture your heart. Lady Bird does exactly that and never builds to anything huge but subtly everything culminates into something bigger than the sum of the film’s parts. It’s an impressive, thoughtful and lovely film that deserves all of the praise it has received.