May/June 2018  (Vol. 33, Issue 3)

Lady Bird

Lionsgate, 93 min., R, DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $39.99, Mar. 6

Reviewer rating: 4.0/4

Actress-screenwriter Greta Gerwig makes an auspicious directorial debut with this perceptive coming-of-age dramedy, chronicling the tempestuous bond between a teenager and her mother. Set in 2002 in Gerwig’s hometown of Sacramento, the film begins with novelist Joan Didion’s acerbic observation: “Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is coping with her senior year at a Catholic high school and unrest at home: her mild-mannered father, Larry (Tracy Letts), lost his job, and her strong-willed mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), works two shifts as a psychiatric nurse to keep the lower-middle-class family afloat, albeit on the “wrong” side of the tracks. Understandably eager to leave home, just-turned-18-year-old Lady Bird secretly applies to East Coast colleges, “where the culture is,” even though her parents can barely afford in-state tuition at nearby UC Davis. Not surprisingly, Lady Bird’s adolescent love life is also awkwardly complicated, first with hunky thespian Danny O’Neill (Lucas Hedges), who has his own problems, and then with musician Kyle Scheible (Timothée Chalamet), who takes her virginity. Besieged by emotional contradictions and confusion, Lady Bird recklessly jilts her sensitive BFF (Beanie Feldstein) for a richer, more popular classmate (Odeya Rush). In addition to eliciting superb performances from Ronan and Metcalf, filmmaker Gerwig pays attention to artfully delineated supporting characters, such as the insightful counseling by Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith) and the clueless ex-football-coach-turned-drama director who diagrams staging with X’s and O’s on a chalkboard. Full of anguish and sass, this bittersweet, multi-Oscar-nominated film (including Best Picture) is highly recommended. Editor’s Choice. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by writer-director Greta Gerwig and cinematographer Sam Levy, and the behind-the-scenes featurette “Realizing Lady Bird” (16 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray release are bonus DVD and UltraViolet copies of the film. Bottom line: a solid extras package for this multiple Oscar nominee.] (S. Granger)