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Movie Night – ‘Lady Bird’ offers fine acting, humor

By Bradley Griffith

It should be no surprise that Oscar-nominated films frequently fail to live up to the hype surrounding their nominations. Yet every year I keep looking for the gem from awards season that is actually worthy of being nominated for best picture of the year. “Lady Bird” is neither a hidden gem nor a disappointment. It’s not great, nor is it terrible. But for the price of a home rental it may be worth seeing.

Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is an unusual 18-year-old high school senior that for some unknown reason wants to be called Lady Bird. She’s eccentric and artistic and lives on what she calls the wrong side of the tracks from many other students in her private Catholic school in Sacramento that she can attend only through a scholarship. She has only one real friend, Julie Steffans (Beanie Feldstein).

Lady Bird’s mother, Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf), is always hard on her. Whether she is fussing at her for using two towels after a shower, constantly telling her how she is ungrateful, or refusing to ever give her compliments, Lady Bird and her mom clash on many levels on virtually every day. Many times they even have difficulty speaking to each other.

Lady Bird and Julie seem to finally find their groove when they sign up for a play with the drama department. Lady Bird meets a boy and they are part of a new group of friends. Then, for some inexplicable reason, Lady Bird tries to become friends with the cool, rich kids. For a while she is accepted by her new “friends.” She even finds a new boyfriend.

Lady Bird wants to go to college on the east coast where the cities have culture, which, according to her, is totally lacking in Sacramento. She doesn’t know if she could get in or how she could pay for one of those expensive private universities. Her mom wants her to stay in California and attend UC Davis, so she doesn’t tell her mom when she applies to several schools on the east coast.

“Lady Bird” is an average story about an eccentric teenage girl who doesn’t seem to know exactly what she wants. The story itself is fairly mediocre with no great twists or unusual bits that make it any different from any other coming-of-age story we have seen before. It’s neither the beginning of the story for Lady Bird, nor is it the ending. And it would be nice if the movie explained why she wants to be called Lady Bird.

In many ways it’s a story about family. Lady Bird and her mom can’t seem to agree on anything, which seems fairly common when it comes to teenage girls and their parents. The interaction between mother and daughter may be taken to a bit of an extreme for the movie, but it does illustrate that even though your family loves you more than anyone else and is always on your side, sometimes it’s more difficult to have a real conversation with your family than anyone else.  Especially when you are a teenage girl.

There are two aspects of the movie that make it enjoyable. The first is the fine acting performances of Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. If you didn’t know better you would believe that they were actually mother-daughter with the way they acted on the screen. They were imminently believable, which is what you really need in any acting performance.

The second part of the movie that is entertaining is its humor. The interactions between mother and daughter, and with Lady Bird at a school where she doesn’t feel like she fits in, are crazy and funny, mostly because they are honest and genuine. You can imagine these situations happening to a teenage girl every day in every part of the world, but you wouldn’t necessarily anticipate Lady Bird’s reactions.

The best parts of “Lady Bird” are those that surround mother and daughter and the whole family. The fact that I can sympathize with both mother and daughter is kind of scary, because it means I am getting old.

• • •

Grade: B

Rated R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity, and teen partying.