This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
PatrickO’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
My second viewing of Lady Bird is one of the best experiences I have had at the movies this year. While I saw this film weeks ago I left puzzled by how it earned a perfect one hundred percent score on Rotten Tomatoes and how it was considered a front runner for Best Picture. At the time I did not think the film was as good as its critical reception and awards season buzz. I went into this film with both of those in mind and spent that first viewing trying to find out why it was so well received and why it might win awards. Unfortunately viewing the film like that kept me from seeing it as its own thing instead of what the opinions of others saw it as. I’ll admit that I do this for every film I see during awards season and while I know its best to just view a film as its own thing to make my own critique it can sometimes help to go back and re-watch to gain a new perspective/appreciation for the film. However, I admit that I decided to see this film again because I know that this will win big at the 90th Academy Awards and wanted to re-watch some aspects of its quality filmmaking that I thought it did well in before it wins.
Today, I was the only person in the theater that this film was played in which added an extra sense of interest to my experience. Instead this was like a private screening where I could see the film in the way all movies are meant to be seen in on the big screen (and with surround sound). In some ways I think seeing this movie alone at the theaters was a more interesting experience considering my original reception of the film. During my first viewing I thought this film had many qualities such as the performances and screenplay. However, watching it again helped me understand its story and characters better. What makes Lady Bird such a great film is that it’s such a realistic story that utilizes its coming of age plot and benefits from its character driven story. I did not know much about this film’s plot when I first saw it but over time have come to understand the plot as a story about a teenage girl’s transition into adulthood made more difficult by her wants and the unexpectedness of reality. In the end, Lady Bird does not get everything she wants (too cliché). Instead Lady Bird gets what she needs (just like the song) and her journey to getting what she needs is quite an emotional experience. While the plot feels like it could have been experienced by anybody, Gerwig’s screenplay benefits from its titular character whose sharp personality is brought to life by a fantastic performance from Saoirse Ronan who channels Lady Bird’s unique sense of comedy, drama, and heart in her performance. The plot is further enhanced with its look at the struggles of the middle class and benefits from its 2002 setting as I enjoyed seeing some early 2000s pop culture referenced. Finally, there’s the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother that makes for some of the film’s most emotionally devastating moments thanks to Gerwig’s amazing writing and the sharp performances of Ronan and Laurie Metcalfe.
While I was not as impressed with this film as critics were when I first viewed it, seeing it a second time helped me understand why it’s one of 2017’s best. Not only is it a simple written story with the best film dialogue of the year it’s further enhanced by Gerwig’s filmmaking. On top of strong performances, Gerwig fills the screen with little moments and images that make up the world that Lady Bird wants to escape from but also finds happiness in whether its shots of dull Sacramento or a montage of her having a wild night with her friends. The film also benefits from its ninety-minute run time as Gerwig balances the events of a year of Lady Bird’s life while finding a quick amount of time to even include little moments such as the removal of Lady Bird’s pink arm cast edited down to a quick three shot scene. Although I have never seen any of Gerwig’s previous co-directorial work with Joe Swanberg or her co-writing work with Noah Baumbach I look forward to seeing her future work as I can imagine that the acclaim from this film will open a lot of doors of opportunity for her and especially when this film wins at the Oscars in March (I’m currently predicting five wins for Lady Bird).
It’s amazing what can be discovered or rediscovered during re-watches of films. I left my second viewing understanding a lot more and more importantly gained a new and better perspective of this film. I even re-discovered the connections I made with some of the characters that I had previously forgot about since my first viewing. Like some of the character I am also struggling with responsibilities of adulthood. Though this film does offer some inspiring moments, it’s in my opinion that if a film can make a connection with its audience and encourage/influence even one person it’s successful. From my own connection with this film, Lady Bird is a success but not only on that level. It’s also one of the best current coming of age films (I don’t know where to rank it in the all-time list) as it not only brought back memories of great coming of age films like Juno (2007) and The Edge of Seventeen (2016), but more importantly stands out as its own unique thing. I can imagine that this film will have an influence on current and future filmmakers as I can see a scene from this film being passed around in a college screenwriting class while I can also imagine Gerwig’s filmmaking will a source of inspiration to all filmmakers. While Lady Bird is not my favorite film of 2017 it certainly defines a best of the year title and proves itself worthy of the highest accolade in filmmaking.