In the hands of Greta Gerwig, ‘Lady Bird’ is an affirmation of all the brutality and beauty of the oft-criticised millennial set. Believe the hype.
I have to look things up occasionally. I was once adjacent to what’s “in”, never fully “in” personally; now that I’m older, what’s “in” is often frightening and weird.
So I looked up Greta Gerwig, knowing her work not a great deal further than – the absolutely wonderful – Frances Ha and the occasional supporting turn she’s delivered (20th Century Women, Jackie), and it seems that there is an entire sub-genre of independent American film branded “mumblecore”.
According to Wikipedia (and they’re never wrong about anything), “mumblecore” films are “a subgenre of independent film characterized by naturalistic acting and dialogue (often improvised), low-budget film production, an emphasis on dialogue over plot, and a focus on the personal relationships of people in their 20s and 30s.”
This is really off-putting as far as I’m concerned, because I read that and think “hipsters being clever” and, well, no. We don’t need plot, we’ll just chat, because what we have to say is fascinating.
So, if that’s something that exists, and I guess it does, you may be put off by the idea of Greta Gerwig, a central figure in this mumblecore business, having written and directed her first film.
But fear not.
Lady Bird is great. Really great. Well written, superbly performed, and directed by someone who knows how to frame a shot (and you can’t ask much more than that of a director). Saoirse Ronan takes the lead as the girl from the suburbs seeking a bigger, better life at college. It’s a different turn for Ronan, who was phenomenal in the 2015 Brooklyn, but plays her part here with more assurance, more cynicism; Laurie Metcalf is wonderful as her mother, determined for her daughter to have a better life, all the while keeping her within arm’s reach.
Gerwig’s characters, plotting and dialogue are honest, fleshed-out and deliver in Lady Bird a new entry into the “coming of age” genre that puts it in a class above.