December 20, 2017

Lady Bird: Saoirse Shines as Rebellious Teen in Coming-of-Age Adventure

By Kam Williams

Saoirse Ronan is only 23 and has already been nominated for an Academy Award twice: for Brooklyn (2015) and Atonement (2005). Now, she’s certain to land another nomination for her memorable performance as the title character in Lady Bird.

It’s hard to say whether three times will prove to be the charm for her, since this has been a banner year for actresses, with powerful performances turned in by competitors like Sally Hawkins, Frances McDormand, and Meryl Streep. Win or lose, Ronan deserves all of her accolades for her performance in a very demanding role as a tormented teen constantly in crisis. 

Life is an emotional roller coaster for Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). As the film unfolds it’s easy to see why. She is an iconoclast who refuses to conform. She rebels against her overbearing mother (Laurie Metcalf), breaks the rules at her Catholic high school, dyes her hair a bizarre blend of red and pink, and insists that everyone address her as Lady Bird.

Despite being weak academically, she’s banking on college as her way to get out of town. She hates boring Sacramento, and won’t settle for a school anywhere but in New York City. But, instead of studying to pick up her grades she impulsively runs for class president and tries out for a role in The Tempest. And she’s also a little boy crazy. So, you can understand why she doesn’t always keep her eyes on the university prize.

The plot thickens in a variety of surprising ways that would be unfair to spoil here. Suffice it to say that Lady Bird is a fantastic female-centered instant classic that is reminiscent of Juno (2007) and Bridesmaids (2011). Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, the picture is also semi-autobiographical, since Gerwig lived in Sacramento and attended an all-girls Catholic school before she moved to Manhattan to attend Barnard College.

The movie is a delightful film that, in this critic’s opinion, deserves Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity, sexuality, teen partying, and brief graphic nudity. Running time: 93 minutes. Production Company: Scott Rudin Productions/IAC Films/Management 360. Distributor: A24.