Lady Bird reviews

Mister Tee
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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:05 pm

The holiday has me running a little ragged, so I don't have time for a full appreciation, but some thoughts:

My two words to myself as the screen went black were exactly what BJ said in his first sentence: lovely movie. Two things that you'd think have been done to death are the teen movie and the growing-up memoir, but god, as always, is in the details, because this movie feels fully fresh. I think Gerwig could repeat to herself the words that Sr. Lois Smith says about her essay -- that she's given attention and love to her subject, and made something beautiful out of it, which is always a cause for gratitude.

She also displays an extremely light touch, both as a writer and director. When Lady Bird and Danny had that wonderful scene lying under the stars together, I found myself thinking, this is too early in the film, something obviously is going to go wrong, and I dreaded the idea of the scenes where it would happen. I was right, of course, things did go south, but the scenes I'd dreaded didn't turn up, because the whole event was reduced to quick gestures -- the discovery, the crying with her friend, moving on to the next. The movie takes something of a grown-up's view of the life of a teenager: things happen fast, and most of them don't amount to anything. Events are shown proper respect, but not dwelled upon. Similarly, the conflicts between Lady Bird and her mother are real, and in many movies would lead to explosive confrontations, but here, as in real life, they're played out in small ways -- like Metcalf's minute reaction to hearing the phrase "wrong side of the tracks". They register, but they're not made a big deal of, which is a lot like life, not the movies.

I was amazed the film was only 90 minutes long, because it seemed densely packed with detail and incident. So many things made me laugh -- the hilariously inappropriate choice of Merrily We Roll Along (a show that baffled NY audiences in a high school?), the absurd but so-high-school substitution of the football coach for the director -- but just as many touched me, especially in in the revelation of the unsent letters, and everything to do with Tracey Letts' situation. This film may offer the most honest depiction of social class any pop American movie has displayed in years -- the film doesn't just illustrate the economic divide, it shows us the tiny, day-to-day ways in which it makes a difference. Some of these scenes (the revelation of the fake address, Letts losing his job) were a bit painful, but not agonizing -- they just seemed part of life, leading the characters to work out next steps, rather than collapsing in humiliation. Again: light touch.

(About the Stephen McKinley Henderson plot-line -- it may well be it went somewhere but was cut for time consideration. Or maybe Gerwig meant it to be mysterious, and the scene's real purpose was to show us a side of Metcalf that neither we nor her daughter ever saw.)

I agree the film's ending is not ideal, and concur with both BJ's hilarious description of how Gerwig arrived at it and his statement that it didn't at all change the overall reaction to the work. This is partly because, after stumbling around for 5-10 minutes, she closes on a perfect grace note. I'm thinking the words she speaks to her mother are maybe more the words a 30-year-old Gerwig is articulating than something an 18-year-old could manage, but that's okay. In a sense, the whole movie is the older/wiser Gerwig looking back and seeing shades of gray that she didn't notice as she was barreling through.

I first saw Laurie Metcalf in a Steppenwolf/Circle Rep production of Lanford Wilson's Balm in Gilead in 1984, wherein she had a monologue that was one of the greatest things I've ever seen in a theatre. Though I was pleased for what Roseanne did for her career, I felt it never showed her off to the full extent of her gifts. This here is more like it. I went in thinking Metcalf was going to kill, and maybe felt a tad misled -- she was perfectly wonderful, but, like others, I thought she never quite had a killer scene. Her best moments are quite subtle -- like that look she gives her daughter in response to "Maybe this is the best me there's ever going to be". It's a full-bodied, excellent supporting performance, but I worry it may not be showy enough for awards. I'll be happy to be proven wrong.

Saoirse Ronan, though, I think IS a knockout here. She's incredibly vivid, and covers an extraordinary range. She behaves very badly, sometimes inexcusably, but I never lost my basic sympathy/empathy for her -- she was so fully present at ever moment, I couldn't take my eyes off her. I think this performance goes WAY beyond what she did in Brooklyn (and I thought she was excellent there). This is a star-making role, and her spirit carries the film.

I'm fully expecting to be disappointed by some movie along the way, but, so far, my sampling of the Oscar season movies has left me extremely satisfied. Both Three Billboards and Lady Bird are absolutely top drawer contenders.

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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:39 pm

Changed. Thanks.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby Okri » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:31 pm

Edited....
Last edited by Okri on Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Nov 13, 2017 3:06 pm

flipp525 wrote
Her reaction to Hedges’ “other side of the tracks line” may be too subtle for an Oscar clip, but I thought it was just heartbreaking and very touchingly rendered.

Watching the film, I wondered what her clip would be. I think the strongest would be the one from the trailer, where she tells Lady Bird that she just wants her to be the best version of herself she can be, and when Lady Bird responds "What if this is the best version of myself?" she gives this marvelous motherly look that's a combination of "Oh, come on!" and "Let's hope not."
Last edited by Sabin on Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby flipp525 » Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:29 am

This movie was absolutely delightful and far funnier than even the trailer suggested (there were some real belly-laugh moments for me, in particular the “Whose on top for their first time!?” line). As has been mentioned in reviews below, Gerwig does an excellent job of placing the typical coming-of-age story within several other kinds of narratives, including economic disparity, coming out in high school (Lucas Hedges giving potential shades of his upcoming Boy Erased performance), and just classic American aspirationalism.

Saoirse Ronan is a very appealing presence throughout the film, acne-scarred and bitter about the limitations of her life, she focuses on the Gatsby green light at almost every turn. This is a very solid credit to add to an already impressive film resume and I have no doubt she’ll be receiving a record third nomination (for her young age) for this role. However, I think Laurie Metcalfe is the clear standout, making her Stella Dallas-styled mother an extremely empathetic, almost painfully real figure, without ever losing sight of the more difficult facets of the character. Her reaction to Hedges’ “other side of the tracks line” may be too subtle for an Oscar clip, but I thought it was just heartbreaking and very touchingly rendered.

The audience I saw this with was ecstatic throughout the whole film. Also, of note, more than half the audience burst into spontaneous applause after the trailer for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby flipp525 » Wed Nov 08, 2017 1:20 pm

I’m seeing this with friends on Sunday - can’t wait!
"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."



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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Nov 06, 2017 2:15 pm

The Original BJ wrote
I wonder if we were at the same screening -- Harmony Gold on Saturday? (I think Gerwig and the cast have been making the rounds, though.)

I think we were.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Nov 06, 2017 2:13 pm

Sabin wrote: But the screening that I went to featured a Q&A with Gerwig and the cast, all of whom couldn't have loved working with her more, and I didn't get a chance to ask.


I wonder if we were at the same screening -- Harmony Gold on Saturday? (I think Gerwig and the cast have been making the rounds, though.)

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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Nov 06, 2017 2:05 pm

The Original BJ wrote
What was the scene between Henderson and Metcalf supposed to be about? It seemed like it was withholding information we'd learn about later, but then nothing materialized. This felt to me like a dropped story thread, and I wasn't sure what this scene's purpose was.

No idea. But the screening that I went to featured a Q&A with Gerwig and the cast, all of whom couldn't have loved working with her more, and I didn't get a chance to ask. What I took away from some of her answers was that there were larger swaths of the film that didn't make the cut or were truncated. For example, Timothy Chalamet's grandfather at one point died in the script and Lady Bird went to be with the family and weep with them. Cutting room floor. I would imagine the character played by Stephen Henderson (whom I enjoyed very much in his short role) has a health breakdown or a mental health break and isn't going to live and gets emotional support from her mother. Which is another side of her character that Lady Bird doesn't get to see.

No, Gerwig doesn't quite know how to end her film, but it should be said that she is such a writer! One of my favorite moments in the film occurs when Lady Bird is speaking to the nun played by Lois Smith (lovely in a small role) about a paper she wrote about Sacramento. Lady Bird thinks she wrote a fairly condemning portrait of her town, but Smith thinks that she must love her home town. Lady Bird can't comprehend how she drew that conclusion, she merely pays attention to her town, but she doesn't love it. And Smith tells her something about the relationship between love and attention. CUT TO: Lady Bird's mother in an outlet store nagging her about the right dress for prom. It's moments like that that make Lady Bird such a rich experience. We're given so much that demonstrates an understanding of her characters but also an understanding of the medium of film. In 'Wonder Boys', Grady Tripp tells his students that writing is about choices. Greta Gerwig makes such wonderful choices that even her missteps are endearing. This is the first time in years that I demand a director's commentary with deleted scenes and BTS footage.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Nov 06, 2017 1:19 pm

What a lovely movie this is! I think Greta Gerwig was wise to leave behind the milieu of the New York high-culture class that has typified her collaborations with Noah Baumbach -- though I'm not dissing those -- to allow her directorial debut to feel like the breakthrough of her own unique voice, depicting an environment that's obviously personal to her. And I should add, as someone who grew up a theater kid in suburban California in the early aughts -- in fact, I graduated high school the same year Lady Bird does -- I thought she captured the environment with great honesty and detail. (My god, some of those soundtrack selections really took me back.)

One thing I can't speak to from personal experience is how well the film taps into what it's like to be a young WOMAN in this time of life... but it seems to me the movie focuses on many aspects of coming of age that actually are more uniquely female. Having a crush on your teacher was something a lot of girls I know experienced, but (Max Fisher notwithstanding) not too many guys. Similarly, I think most girls that age likely fell in love with both Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet, but I'm not sure there's REALLY a parallel for young men. Realizing your best friend is the one you want to spend all of prom night dancing with -- that's a girl thing. And of course, the relationship you have with your mother, where she's both your best friend and your chief antagonist, is certainly something I observed with my sisters that wasn't true for me. At the Q&A after the screening I went to, Gerwig listed her main influences for the film -- The 400 Blows, Amarcord, Boyhood -- and I thought, it's interesting that most of those movies are about young men. While Lady Bird has its female-driven antecedents -- there's certainly a whiff of Ghost World's Enid in the disaffected eye-rolling of Lady Bird -- I think one reason the movie feels as fresh as it does is because of the way Gerwig has taken traditional coming-of-age templates and made them intrinsically (not just arbitrarily) feminine.

The movie also does a great job displaying the class dynamics in suburban private schools, especially predominately white ones. You've got the kids from families with the nicest houses in town in class next to kids from families doing everything they can to scrape by to pay for their kids' education. And so much of Lady Bird's desire to fit in with the "cool" kids stems from wanting to appear part of the upper echelon, and her feelings of embarrassment toward her parents combine both typical teenage immaturity as well as a very class-specific humiliation over their financial troubles.

I agree with Sabin that Gerwig didn't quite know how to end the film. I found many of the film's final scenes to be very moving, but she seemed to be trying out a bunch of different endings, not sure which one would stick, and then just went with all of them. This didn't seriously diminish my opinion of the movie -- which, in addition to being very human, is pretty consistently funny, with a lot of great throwaway one-liners -- but I still wish it had found a way to really knock that conclusion out of the park.

The heart of the film would have to be the mother/daughter relationship, and it's beautifully realized. This is a great change of pace role for Saoirse Ronan -- for an actress who up to now has excelled most at European period dramas, it's exciting to see she's just as believable as a contemporary California teen, and just as adept at comedy as more dramatic fare. At this point, anyone still doubting that her childhood breakthrough will lead to anything other than a superb career as an adult actress is just not paying attention. And Laurie Metcalf is a splendid presence throughout the film -- funny, frustrated, stubborn, and full of deep wells of love for her family.

Merrily We Roll Along is really a hilarious choice for these kids to be doing as the school musical, both in terms of how difficult that material would be for young performers, as well as how mature it would be for a Catholic school. (Although I loved Stephen Henderson's line after opening night of the play, a sentiment probably shared by the show's creators, I'm sure.)

What was the scene between Henderson and Metcalf supposed to be about? It seemed like it was withholding information we'd learn about later, but then nothing materialized. This felt to me like a dropped story thread, and I wasn't sure what this scene's purpose was.

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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun Nov 05, 2017 8:17 pm

Accidentally deleted my review of Lady Bird. I’ll write something soon.

It’s great. To take a line from you, Tee, it ends a bit in a pillow, but A24 will be pushing this one. The mother/daughter relationship should help it cross over to the older crowd, but it is indeed for a younger crowd. Juno was broad enough (and existing in a parallel universe) to crossover into nominations in a weak year for traditional Academy fare. In fact, it represented their only gasp for traditionally palatable air. It’s too soon to know about this year, but I can only hope they can turn this into a contender in a slate of ten. The main thing working against it is the lack of an overarching plot. It’s a series of rolling subplots setting up and paying off. But it does it so swiftly that I have a hard time imagining even the stodgiest of voters getting too bored. Even though Roger Ebert isn’t with us anymore, I think we can safely say this is his favorite film of the year.

Not sure if Metcalf has quite enough that is original to do, but her presence fills the film even when she’s off screen. And she is very good. She has a very specifically complicated relationship with her daughter so we always sympathize. And this is the best thing Ronan has ever done. Working against her is how effortlessly she does it. This is one of the best teen protagonists since Max Fisher and she manages to anchor a year’s worth of growth just as effortlessly as she does with ‘Brooklyn,’ and that’s what makes me wonder if the Academy will overlook her. No chance of a nomination but the film’s cinematography by Sam Levy is beautiful and it Nick Houy’s editing creates a swift rhythm like in Baumbach’s recent films. After watching this film, it’s worth wondering if perhaps Baumbach took inspiration from Gerwig and not the other way around.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby flipp525 » Sat Sep 09, 2017 3:30 pm

I always go back to Metcalf's comically presented, yet ultimately unsympathetic landlady of Elisabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas for what she can do on film. I'd be really excited for her to place for this. The trailer is fantastic. On top of just winning a Tony this summer, this would a cap to an amazing year for her.
"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."



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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Sep 05, 2017 11:06 pm

And, finally, Hollywood Reporter -- another stellar review. (A.O. Scott in the NY Times was enthusiastic as well in a wrap-up article.)

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review ... ew-1035669

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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby Sabin » Tue Sep 05, 2017 2:48 pm

The trailer dropped. This movie looks very good, and it should. Sam Levy shot it. He has a lot of experience filming Greta Gerwig in Noah Baumbach's films.

Saoirse Ronan is probably a good bet for Best Actress. Best Supporting Actress is a race that hasn't come together yet. I think a few people were holding out that perhaps Michelle Pfeiffer could retrace Ruth Gordon's steps in Mother! but that doesn't seem likely from the reviews I've read. It all seems like Jennifer Lawrence's show. But Laurie Metcalf is the kind of Oscar story I love seeing. An incredibly talented, tireless character actor picking up roles where she can. On stage, on television, and finally landing something that picks her up attention. I did a quick IMDB search and Lady Bird is her first non-voice-over film performance in almost ten years.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: Lady Bird reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Sep 04, 2017 3:22 pm

Jeffrey Wells loves it.


Lady Bird — Whipsmart, Deeply Felt, Affecting

Greta Gerwig‘s Lady Bird (A24, 11.10), which I finally saw last night after absorbing all the buzz and praise for the previous two days, is by far the pizazziest, wisest, smartest, most emotionally resonant and complete film I’ve seen at Telluride ’17. And it’s going to keep happening after it opens two months hence, and by this I mean it will stir the award-season pot.

Lady Bird vibrates with pluck, wit and smartypants energy, but it’s not some indie outlier that will peak in terms of awards recognition with a Spirit trophy or two. It’s a Best Picture contender if I ever saw one, and Saoirse Ronan‘s lead performance — essentially a portrayal of the young, Sacramento-imprisoned Gerwig at age 18 or thereabouts — is a locked-down Best Actress contender.

A comically anguished piece of self-portraiture in which the 34 year-old Gerwig recalls and reconstructs (and to some extent re-invents) her life in ’02, when she was finishing high school and dying to get the hell out of Sacramento, Lady Bird is the only serious Telluride break-out, the only film that has really cast one of those spells…an amusing, touching, smallish knockout that truly glistens and scores and pushes that special massage button.

Lady Bird is Rushmore’s Daughter (I'm in) — a whipsmart, girl-centric indie that deals emotionally rounded cards, a Wes Anderson-type deal (sharply disciplined, nicely stylized, just-right music tracks, grainy film-like textures) but without the twee, and with polish and English and all kinds of exacting, soulful self-exposure from director-writer Gerwig.

She’s passing along a half-funny, half-turbulent saga of high-school-senior angst, lust, parental friction, friendship, frustration, existential ambition and social longing.

Ronan’s performance is the take-home, for sure — a pushy, achey and vulnerable teen thing, almost but not quite in the Max Fischer-Jason Schwartzman mode. She’s also, of course, portraying the young Gerwig. You could say that Ronan is inhabiting Gerwig as much as Jesse Eisenberg played a generic Woody Allen-like figure in Cafe Society, only with more energy. In my book this is Ronan’s best performance yet, and that ain’t hay.

But Laurie Metcalf, as Ronan’s prickly and emotionally frustrated mom, is a stand-out also, and a likely contender for Best Supporting Actress.

Engaging supporting performances are also given by Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea), currently-reigning-hearthrob Timothee Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson and 86 year-old Lois Smith.

I don’t recount plot beats in my reviews so go elsewhere for that.

The general consensus since Friday has been that Guillermo del Toro‘s The Shape of Water was the best of the Telluride bunch. I’m sorry but no, or at least not by my standards. Lady Bird, as richly attuned to its own vision of universal symmetry and poignancy as Shape, is better, I feel, because I prefer reflections and re-packagings of real, actual life, and Lady Bird is certainly that, casting a special light upon a kind of tough, late-teen situation that we’ve all known and grappled with.

My other two Telluride favorites, Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s Loveless and Paul Schrader‘s First Reformed, are audacious, drill-down provocations of the highest art-film order, but Lady Bird is just as prickly-brilliant and ambitious and shoot-for-the-moon as these, and more successful in terms of reaching out and finding the right kind of audience-friendly voice, and then touching down in that communal sweet spot that we all cherish — who we were, how we got out of that, what mattered then and who we are now.

I’m astonished that Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone has described Ronan’s character (self-named Lady Bird with a given name of Christine) as “perhaps [a] somewhat unlikable teenage girl.” In this sense any headstrong and assertive high-school senior with hunger and ideas, lacking the social finesse that comes with maturity and experience, is “somewhat unlikable” — please! This is the same kind of pushback that Jason Schwartzman‘s Max received (why isn’t he more personable, more conventionally likable?) when Rushmore opened in late ’98.

Then again Stone does call Lady Bird “an impressive, challenging, buoyantly entertaining work — a movie that honestly chronicles a young woman’s strong-willed struggle to take charge of the aspirations in her head, the turbulence in her soul, and the irrepressible passion in her heart.”
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver


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