Great Gerwig spread her wings in ‘Lady Bird’

What unfortunate circumstance we live in. Many a people have criticized Rotten Tomatoes for calculating that some movies get good reviews and some do not. Because of that, people will harshly criticize the source of a calculated number because they lean in possibly a small minority. Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t tell people a movie is a masterpiece, the critics do.

I say all this because Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird, is now the best reviewed film on the website in their entire history. It is unfortunate that people will walk into this movie with expectations for a masterpiece and will be sorely disappointed when they see the film is just an honest, personal, and often very funny film.

Even witter-director Gerwig would probably defend me when I say the film does not sit in the masterpiece pantheon with The Godfather or Casablanca. But what Gerwig has given us is a fine film, one that is most certainly all the correct credibility it deserves and has earned.

Lady Bird is Gerwig’s semi-autobiographical take on her adolescent years. Saorise Ronan plays the titular character who is on the brink of graduating a Catholic high school in 2002. Lady Bird is at the period of her life when the world is waiting for you to discover it. She clashes with the matriarch of the family (played almost unrecognizably by the usually comic Laurie Metcalf), who really just wants her daughter to have a good life, but is aware of the sacrifices she can and cannot make to give her daughter just that. When we first meet this tandem, they are on a college road trip, listening to John Steinbeck on audiobook and having the same reaction to the end of Grapes of Wrath. This is the only time in the movie that these two will agree on something. This moment ends with the first of many unexpected laugh-out-loud moments in the film.

A lot of the times, I hear people use the word “accurate” to describe coming-of-age films. That is extremely problematic, as everybody’s experience is different, but Lady Bird seems to have stuck it’s hand into everybody’s adolescence and pulled out the familiar characters we may have met in the later years of high school: the understanding father, the ride-or-die best friend, the closet homosexual who just isn’t ready to come out yet, the faux intellectual who chooses to read pop-academia to rebel against social convention and believe they understand the world on a more mature level (these are the character that eventually refer to themselves as “existentialists” for a couple months in undergrad), the rich popular girl who you may have more in common than you think, the relatable authority figure.

As much as Lady Bird progressed, I had no clue that I could relate so deeply with a movie about a girl growing up in Sacramento. But I felt her pain of wanting to get out and doing whatever it took to do that, no matter who it hurt or how many people you have to let go of.

When I was Lady Bird’s age, growing up in Coral Springs, FL, I wanted out of my hometown just as badly as she did. I thought I had learned all that life had to teach me (a sentiment echoed by Lady Bird at one point), I was butting heads with my mother and ready to split from family. I even recall somebody once criticizing me for wanting to leave Florida: “Why would you want to go somewhere else when you are already so familiar with this town?” It was that type of thinking that made me thing I was far and away smarter than anybody I went to high school with. The only way to grow, or so I thought, was to move to an entirely different side of the universe and resent the places you came from. But now, I return to Florida every now and again and my family moved an hour away from my home town. When I last went down for a visit, my mom offered a chance to return to the town from whence I came. I was more than up to the task.

That digression is the type of thinking hopefully any person can achieve in the final moments of Lady Bird. The final moments are some of the most poignant and touching I have seen in film this year.

Lady Bird is not a cinematic achievement. It is deeply personal for Gerwig but it’s themes are universal. The movie is as much about a character as it is about a point in time in everyone’s life. As time progresses, perhaps it will stand in the pantheon of masterpieces. It is certainly rewatch able, which may be the lowest compliment I can give it. But a movie like this deserves no low compliments, so I’ll pay it a high one: Lady Bird is certainly worth everyone’s time as it is one of the best movies of the year.

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