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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Mar 3, 2018

Lady Bird Movie Review: Well Acted, Totally Engaging Heartwarming Coming-Of-Age Movie About A Teenage Girl's Last Year In Catholic High School

‘LADY BIRD’ is a totally engaging and heartwarming coming-of-age story that won two awards in the Golden Globes: best comedy picture and best comedy actress for Saoirse Ronan, who has been nominated twice in the Oscars before for “Atonement” and “Brooklyn”. The film is written and directed by actress-writer-director Greta Gerwig, who’s nominated as best director in the Oscar Awards that will be held this Monday morning (Manila time.)

She’s one of only five women nominated as best director in the history of the Oscars and she’s very young at only 34. Set in 2002, the film is no doubt semi-autobiographical and there’s an authencity in it that’s very palpable. The writer-director obviously experienced some of the situations portrayed in it in real life, as she's also from Sacramento then moved to New York.

“Lady Bird” is the story of Christine (Ronan), a 17-year old high school senior who has rechristened herself as Lady Bird, which she says is “a name given to me by me”, in a bid to redefine herself. Now on her last year in a Catholic high school, her dream is to fly away from their home in Sacramento, which she makes fun of as the Midwest of Northern California, as soon as possible, and go to a university or art school somewhere in the East Coast as she firmly believes that is “where the culture is”.

Christine is in a love-hate relationship with her mama, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), a psychiatric nurse who works double shifts after her husband (Tracy Letts) lost his job. She tries to convince Christine to just go to a city college and not somewhere far away. Their many scenes of them arguing because of their conflicting points of view are alternately touching and hilarious. This is quickly established in the film’s opening sequence where they are shown arguing and Christine suddenly opens the car’s door and throws herself out of the moving vehicle.

In her final year in high school, we see Christine cheating in exams, eating the holy hosts meant for communion with her best friend like they’re cookies for snacks, auditioning for a musical and landing as one of the chorus members, trying smoking and drinking, having a spat and then reconciling with her best friend, attending the senior prom and making extra efforts to lose her virginity. No doubt the film will touch some emotional buttons for some folks who will feel nostalgic about their own high school years.

The film works because of the real-ness in the situations portrayed and the uniformly excellent performance of the supporting cast. As Christine’s love interests, the film has two talented young actors, Lucas Hedges (who was nominated in the Oscars last year for “Manchester by the Sea”) and Timothee Chalamet (who’s nominated this year for “Call Me By Your Name”).

Lucas is her first boyfriend who’s a theatre actor. She gives him permission for him to touch her boobies, but he won’t do so because he says he respects her so much. The true reason will be revealed later and that scene where Christine and him are shown hugging each other while crying is one of the most poignant scenes in the entire film.

Beanie Feldstein is also a standout as Julie, Christine’s BFF who has a crush on their math teacher. The scene were they reconcile after their spat is a gem. Also to be commended are Tracy Letts as the understanding dad, Lois Smith as a nun who tries to help Christine, Stephen Henderson as a priest who suffers from depression, and Laurie Metcalf as the mom whose performance in the final scene, where she missed saying goodbye to her daughter at the airport and her husband hugs her and consoles her, is heartrending. That and her alternate displays of both tenderness and toughness for her daughter certainly feel so genuine.

But of course, the film truly belongs to Saoirse Ronan who plays the title role with so much self-deprecating charm. This is a total turn around from her sweet Irish lass role in “Brooklyn”. She’s already 23 but she made herself convincing as a bullheaded 17-year old redhead who would surely realize years later that the pains and rituals of growing up are over and now just part of the sweet memories of growing up.

She’s there from start to end and is alternatly naive and smart and impulsive in so many scenes that help shape us into our selves as we journey to adulthood and make this not your average teen drama. Aside from the crying scene with Hedges, she’s also memorable in that confrontation with Chalamet as her second band singer boyfriend, to whom she loses her cherry, where she blurts out: “I was on top! Who the fuck is on top the first time?”

Gerwig is really a great and witty storyteller who knows how to dish out relatable situations and get the best from her actors whose characters are fully fleshed out. The film runs for only one and a half hours but it is packed with a lot of potent stuff and you won’t have time to get bored, compared to those two hour plus extravaganzas where you can see a lot of padding. We also enjoyed her choices of pop songs, notably Alanis Morisette and Dave Matthews. We can’t wait to see what Gerwig will cook up the next time she works behind the camera.