Greta Gerwig the actor has undoubtedly benefited from her time on set and in the company of Woody Allen, Whit Stillman and Noah Baumbach.
From her exposure to these giants of modern cinema, Greta Gerwig the writer director has blossomed and bloomed, giving us LADYBIRD, a lovely, layered, luminescent work that has earned five Oscar nominations and made the field so much harder to pick.
LADYBIRD elevates the teen/coming of age movie to sacramental level without ever degenerating into the saccharine.
Set in Sacramento in 2002, LADYBIRD is primarily the love story between a mother and her daughter, a love story that is tempestuous, tortured and taut. Saoirse Ronan plays the title character, a high school senior whose academic achievement is no impediment to her ambition to applying for a university post far from home.
Her mother, Marion, played by the incomparable Laurie Metcalf, wants her to stay at home and attend a local college, a cheaper, practical option. And so the friction between mother and daughter is fuelled by the dreams of one and the practicality of the other.
In the middle is dad, Larry, played by Tracy Letts, devoted spouse and sperm donor, diplomatically trying to broker peace between the warring factions under his roof.
Ladybird, meanwhile, is experiencing her burgeoning sexuality, and two boys loom large on the canvas of carnal knowledge. These characters are played by Hollywood hot bods, Timothee Chalamet, Oscar nominated for his performance in Call Me By Your Name, and Lucas Hedges, currently playing Frances McDormand’s son in the Oscar nominated Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
With LADYBIRD, Greta Gerwig has made a film that takes place immediately in the post-9/11 world, which ushered in the complete erosion of the middle class in America. The invasion of Iraq and the terror of war and the uncertainty of the job market are effectively used as the backdrop to crushes and conflicts, families and friendships, illustrating how life doesn’t divide itself up into subjects.
There’s not history over there and personal life over here. It all happens together.
The characters in LADYBIRD are fascinating and embraceable because of their ﬂaws, not in spite of them. Supporting players are given their own weight and back stories.
Ladybird steeps herself in the school dramatic society and Gerwig has endeavoured to shoot the picture always having a sense of the proscenium, of the ﬁlm unfolding in a series of placed scenes like Stations of the Cross presents the story of the Passion. Certainly Catholicism pervades the picture with its aspects of faith, forgiveness and reconciliation.
LADYBIRD is laugh out loud funny and feel inside deeply. Greta Gerwig, nominated for both writing and directing Oscars, has re-imagined the teen movie, just as Guillermo Del Toro has redefined the creature feature in The Shape of Water.