Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird shows that not all kids with poor or struggling parents are angels ready to take the world by storm with their grit, determination, and chip on their shoulders. It is a movie carried by one stunning performance and made hilarious (for the wrong reasons) by yet another performance.
The titular character Christine McPherson, played very well by Saoire Ronan, is delusional, spoiled, and ungrateful. She wants to be so far away from the city of Sacramento, that she has already mentally checked out of her surrounding, not noticing or knowing that it hides people and activities that fit her and suit her very well. One such thing is a drama class, which starts most of the conflict and plot in this movie, along with Lady Bird’s conflicts with her mother, a gentle, honest to a fault giant of personhood. During the course of the movie, Lady Bird finds one boyfriend, who is very enthusiastic about drama, but also comes from a Republican family (gasp). This can only lead to one thing, Lady Bird catching him in the bathroom making out with someone else. I think you can pretty bet your house on what sex the other person in that bathroom was. That is only one of the many predictable things in this very formulaic film. Lady Bird’s second boyfriend, who she met at a party is Kyle, played by Timothe Chalame. His performance is by far the most unintentionally hilarious performance I have seen in the last few years that was not featured on a Red Letter Media Best of the Worst episode. The character is very flat and cliché. He comes off as a meme. The character strikes me as someone who has read one Chomsky and one Naomi Klein book. His whole arc/development was set in stone the moment he held Howard Zinn’s book in his hands. The poor misunderstood suffering wannabe artist wants always to be to the side, always to appear unique, and yet; he is just another kid who read one or two books in high school and took them way too seriously. But the performance itself isn’t any better. Chalome is lost between trying to appear high and disinterested. His inner life appears to be the emptiness of a soap opera character, the one who rivals the protagonist, but we all know will never get the girl.
What really transforms this movie is Laurie Metcalf, and her performance as Marion, Lady Bird’s mother. There are so many ebbs and flows to her performance and she delivers every note perfectly. In the hands of a lesser actor, the role could have really been something over the top, or just another overworked woman who struggles to combine work and her family. But you feel the struggle in her character, you sense and tense up with her because she is torn while making every decision. Towards the end of the movie, when she drives off Lady Bird to the airport, there is simply a stunning, minimalistic performance by Laurie Metcalf. With a gasp and a cry, she pierces the heart and soul of the audience, taking them completely under her control.