Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Lady Bird' Feels Real, and There's Probably a Good Reason

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Lady Bird' Feels Real, and There's Probably a Good Reason

Article excerpt

There are the coming-of-age films full of sex jokes, wild parties and cardboard parents and teachers, and then those that honestly examine the befuddling, painful life of the modern American teenager without scrimping on the humor.

"Lady Bird" adds itself among the smarter, classier examples of the latter, thanks to the gifted, realistic performances of its lead actors and sharp dialogue written by first-time, 30-something director Greta Gerwig, better known as an actress in a bevy of well-received indie films.

Ms. Gerwig grew up in Sacramento, attended Catholic school and headed off to college in New York City. She has written a dramedy in which the protagonist, Christine McPherson, lives in Sacramento in 2002-03, attends Catholic high school and pines to leave California for more enlightening cultural-educational experiences in New York. Ms. Gerwin presumably knows from whence she writes.

Christine is played by Saoirse Ronan, an Academy Award-nominated actress for "Brooklyn," whose performance easily captivates for 90 or more minutes. She is a mischievous, sharp-tongued rebel here who finds Sacramento stultifying and longs for escape. She has branded herself "Lady Bird" instead of Christine without explanation, though it almost certainly has nothing to do with any former U.S. first lady.

The other long-to-be-remembered performance is by Emmy/Tony winner Laurie Metcalf, playing Christine's wearied, judgmental mother, Marion. She is passive-aggressive and negative about her daughter's future, concealing her love just below the surface while holding together a home whose finances grow increasingly bleak.

Playwright/actor Tracy Letts is the positive parent encouraging Christine in his mild-mannered way, while wrestling with a job loss that strips him of his dignity. …

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