Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.
New to DVD and Blu-ray this week is Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning Lady Bird. This nominal “coming of age” film stars the mercurial Saoirse Ronan in a tour-de-force performance as a high school senior fledging her way out of Sacramento provincialism.
Did I just say “Sacramento provincialism”?
Well, just so. And that has nothing to do with Sacramento, but everything to do with youth. No matter where you’re rooted, if you’re determined to kick the dust off your heels even the most enlightened of places can feel suffocating.
And that’s the case with the titular (and autonymous) Lady Bird McPherson. Stifled by a depressed father, a mother who doesn’t know how to show approval in healthy ways, and a parochial school education, Christine feels the need to break out–to self-identify, as it were, as something other than how she has been raised. It’s a feeling a large number of us have known.
As Lady Bird navigates her way through her senior year in search of love and acceptance, she, like most of us did at one time, finds herself inflicting collateral damage. Her story is not so much one of successfully finding an identity that she can embrace, but striking the right balance with that identity so that those who love her can embrace it as well. For that reason, the film is really not a “coming of age” movie so much as the type of irony-laced young-adult film that Whit Stillman was making 30 years ago or that Wes Anderson was making 20 years ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same–or as King Solomon put it, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Lady Bird is certainly good enough, though, and besides the spot-on supporting-character vignettes drawn by writer-directer Gerwig, all of the exchanges between Ronan and the always-entertaining Laurie Metcalf (who plays Lady Bird’s mother) are pretty riveting.
And yet there is a major difference here. Not only is the main protagonist female (as with Juno), but the writer/director is also female. That gives Lady Bird a feel and ethos that Stillman’s, Anderson’s, and Reitman’s films lacked–and it’s thankfully not one that demeans, objectifies, or devalues masculinity.
The film also feels very fresh for 2017 in the same way that Juno felt fresh a decade ago. It’s particularly an excellent choice for home video viewing, since there’s nothing 10-stories tall that explodes eleven ways from Sunday, and no car chases to speak of. Even the R-rated elements are tastefully handled.
I liked it. But it also doesn’t feel like best-picture material, which is how the film has been promoted since its theatrical release. It’s a little too stylized to be “real,” per se, and a little too self-conscious to be high art. This is really just a solid little independent film with some star power.
So take all of that for what it’s worth. I give it a solid recommendation… with minor reservations based on its hype. Lady Bird would probably be bored with me, and not just a little annoyed.