A career takes flight

Robert Moyes reviews Oscar hopeful, Lady Bird

By Robert Moyes

To the extent she was known at all, Greta Gerwig was celebrated as the “it girl” star of quirky indie films such as Frances Ha and Greenberg. But this talented actor originally began her career with ambitions to be a playwright. And now, with her debut as the writer-director of Lady Bird being universally hailed, she has taken flight as a remarkably assured and empathetic filmmaker.

Set in the California of 2002, Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan (Oscar-nominated for Brooklyn and Atonement) as headstrong, 17-year-old Christine, who’s in a seemingly life or death struggle with her equally headstrong mother (Laurie Metcalf). Christine – or Lady Bird, as she styles herself – hopes to soon escape the conformity of Sacramento by attending an elite arts college in the east; her mother, a nurse striving mightily to keep the family afloat after her husband (Tracy Letts) gets laid off, has decided that something less expensive is all they can afford. And that’s merely the most divisive of many topics that these opinionated and intelligent women bicker over with notable ferocity.

Equal parts coming-of-age story and portrait of mother-daughter conflict, Lady Bird is insightful, blazingly honest … and often very funny as it shows the roller coaster ride of teenage hormones. Christine is settling into a Catholic high school, and soon has boy trouble and various social dilemmas, including desperately wanting to be liked by the school’s wealthy and popular queen bee. Clever enough to get what she thinks she wants, by the time she’s lost her virginity and alienated her best friend, Christine is well positioned to realize she has lots of growing up to do.

Despite covering familiar territory, this hugely entertaining film manages to be both wise and fresh. Whether it’s Christine’s struggle to figure out relationships, her provocative responses to the stifling religiosity of the school, or her intellectual pretensions, her scenes – even the ones played mostly for laughs – always ring true. Small in scale but big of heart, Lady Bird has an abundance of warmth and compassion for all its characters – a memorable achievement in what has been a stunningly bad year for movies. Gerwig has an intuitive grasp of how to be an unobtrusively effective director. And this fine actor clearly knows how to elicit great work from her fellow thespians: Ronan and Metcalf deliver marvelously vivid, believable, lived-in performances.

I’m sure Oscar will take note.

Rating: ****

Just Posted

ARTISTS TOUR: Follow the fish to Metchosin and East Sooke

Stinking Fish group presents its annual summer studio tour July 27-31

WHAT’S ON TAP: Howl Brewing joins the pack of local craft beer operations

Monday beer columnist Matt Poirier checks out a new microbrewer in North Saanich

Charman’s name will live on through Victoria Conservatory of Music bursary fund

Iconic arts patron Eric Charman thrilled to see financial assistance fund growing

Women’s March Victoria keeps movement going with UVic symposium

Discussions, community building and fundraising event highlights women of colour, LGBTQ, immigrants

ROCK THE SHORES 2018: A variety of musical flavours throughout weekend in Colwood

Headliners Brian Wilson, Sheepdogs and X Ambassadors part of diverse lineup festival

WATCH: Trades workers brought into spotlight at Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Sheet metal, roofing apprentices compete for national bragging rights

Saanich Fair: An idea is born

The attaining of a 150th year anniversary is a notable event in… Continue reading

Reviews are in for B.C.-shot ‘Skyscraper’ action movie

City’s film liaison recalls four days of filming at city hall last fall, with Dwayne Johnson on set

B.C. singer up against Shania Twain for Canadian country music award

Madeline Merlo and Shania Twain are two of five nominees for female artist of the year.

Nicolas Cage films in B.C. town

Hollywood actor filming A Score to Settle in North Okanagan

Canadian actress Sandra Oh makes Emmys history with ‘Killing Eve’ nomination

Oh made history as the first Asian woman to be nominated for an Emmy Award for lead actress in a drama series.

Mexican culture comes alive during Festival Mexicano

Free two-day festival happens this weekend in Victoria’s Centennial Square

NEW FESTIVAL: Vegans of Victoria unite

First ever Vegtoria features all things vegan, July 21 in Centennial Square

Victoria lotto winner looking forward to Mexican holiday with family

Angella Gordon-Spence won weekly $1,000 payday for 25 years on Set for Life scratch game

Most Read