• [The Daily] NYFF 2017: Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird

    By David Hudson


    Lady Bird screens at the New York Film Festival this evening and tomorrow night, and we begin with Filmmaker’s Scott Macaulay: “Greta Gerwig makes her directorial debut with this controlled, coolly compassionate and autobiographical-feeling post-9/11 teenage tale. Saoirse Ronan plays the titular heroine, a character who’d be a manic pixie dream girl in someone else’s movie but in Gerwig’s is simply a young woman full of uncertain possibility navigating sexuality, family economic distress and complicated parents in her high school senior year.”

    The New Yorker’s Richard Brody declares Gerwig to be “the most important new actor of the era” before turning to the film at hand: “It’s a classic coming-of-age story about friendship, sex, self-respect, money, and, especially, family—it’s a passionate and compassionate apple-and-tree story about Lady Bird’s conflict-riddled relationship with her tough-minded mother (Laurie Metcalf) and her complicity with her father (Tracy Letts), the parental good cop. Gerwig’s script has the exquisite, insightful, endlessly quotable lilt that set Mistress America (which she wrote and Noah Baumbach directed) aloft. Lady Bird isn’t consistently directed with a comparable flair, but that flair is there.”

    At Slant, Christopher Gray argues that Lady Bird’s “broader shift in perspective is its most impressive, as its sympathies gradually tilt from Lady Bird, a teen desperate to transcend her upbringing, to Marion, a mother who sacrifices her time and her body for her family without reward. Ronan, who seems to grow into her lanky frame over the course of the film, nails the sense that the life of a teenager is a tendentious war between one’s ego and their increasing sense of the world around them, while Metcalf masters Marion’s inability to erase her frustration at her inability to be selfish or impulsive. Both performances are remarkable, brittle and diffident in wholly original ways that distinguish Gerwig’s film from The Edge of Seventeen, Pretty in Pink, and other canonical coming-of-age works that attempt to honestly reckon with issues of privilege.”

    “I’ve already seen the inclination of some, even when they like the film, to dismiss her writing because it is ‘autobiography,’” notes Tracy Letts in a brief piece for Variety. “First of all, it’s simply not autobiography. Lady Bird’s story is very different from Greta’s in many particulars. And second, why would anyone believe writing a script with autobiographical elements is easier than spinning a fiction from whole cloth? (Because Greta’s a woman? Therefore there must be some other explanation why the writing is good?) Greta created a world on the page. There is nothing easy about that. Writers, take note of Greta Gerwig.”

    For The Frame, John Horn talks with Gerwig about working with Mike Mills, Spike Jonze, and Whit Stillman as well as about creating a vibe on her own set, why the story takes place in the early 2000s, and about what she does not have in common with Lady Bird.

    Earlier: Reviews from Telluride and Toronto.

    Update, 10/11: Jesse Hassenger for Brooklyn Magazine: “As a solo writer, Gerwig retains her deft way with meta-nostalgic one-liners (‘Just once I’d like the song “New York Groove” to be playing and have it apply to my life,’ says Lady Bird, who has never been to New York), and as a director she has a knack for goosing laughs with cuts. Yet despite some ace jokes (there’s a bonkers scene with a gym teacher taking over drama club), zingy dialogue, and a few stagy entrances and exits—or really, alongside them—this is a deeply felt film.”

    Update, 10/14: “There’s an eccentric individualism to Gerwig’s nimble form and flow of dialogue,” writes Caroline Madden for Reverse Shot. “Gerwig also boldly rejects the idea that stories about teenage girls have to focus on romance. Instead, Lady Bird’s arc centers on the quest for a sense of self, which speaks to the importance of having female directors tackle stories from their own points of view.”

    Update, 10/22: “Editor Nick Houy accentuates Gerwig’s structure, with cuts that cause scenes to begin in medias res or just as conversations are ending, giving the film both an organic rhythm and a restless momentum that feels true to Lady Bird’s longing for whatever comes next,” writes Alex Engquist at In Review Online. “That Gerwig manages to evoke so much truth—about mothers and daughters, the Stockholm Syndrome involved in feeling trapped in the place one grew up in, the self-consciousness inherent in an adolescent’s search for identity—within the familiar confines of Lady Bird’s funny, sweet coming-of-age story is something of a miracle.”

    NYFF 2017 Index. For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

1 comment

  • By Patrick
    October 09, 2017
    08:09 AM

    Hard to go wrong with Saoirse Ronan.