Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” is frustratingly good. I don’t mean it’s good against all odds, because it has every reason to be as good as it is. I also don’t mean it’s very good until one part and then it fails, because it doesn’t mess up once. “Lady Bird” is frustratingly good because it perfectly captures the emotions of my high school senior year. It must mean that my feelings aren’t unique, they are universal. “Lady Bird” is the story of a theater girl, the daughter of a nurse, who graduates from Sacramento, Calif. in 2003. It very well could be a movie about me, a dropout, the son of doctors, who graduated from Sharon, Vt. in 2017. It feels so right, no matter who you are.
Remember your senior year; that’s the plot. The people you were in love with who disappointed you, but also you weren’t right for them: they’re here. The tyrannical parents who, of course, in retrospect were exactly right: they’re here. The parents who were too damn good to you when you didn’t deserve it: they’re here. The friends you abandoned, the teachers you wanted and the ones you resented: all here. They’re all so perfectly drawn. The villains in “Lady Bird” aren’t villains — every character is so perfectly made that we stop seeing them as characters and they start to be the people from our lives.
Saoirse Ronan, the best actress of her generation, plays the titular character, a girl almost out of Catholic school. Laurie Metcalf plays Marion, her mother, a nurse at a psychiatric hospital, always in scrubs. Tracey Letts is Larry, her father, the nice parent. There are assorted friends, siblings, teachers and two boyfriends.
Gerwig has created something new here. If I were to compare it to anything, Diablo Cody’s script for “Juno” is the closest thing. But “Juno” was almost too well written; it had a poetry to it that was playful and sweetly earnest, living in a more fun, clever reality than ours. “Lady Bird” isn’t that; it firmly lives in this world. The dialogue is funny, but it doesn’t try at all; the humor rises effortlessly from the characters. You watch it, waiting for it to show its hand and do something stupid or unearned, but it doesn’t. And when it’s over, you are satisfied but need more. This is a film with people in it that I could listen to for days. “Lady Bird” is also frustrating in that I feel like I need to apologize to my parents. I can’t think of the last film I watched that made me want to do something like that. It’s frustrating because I don’t really know how or what I want to say. But I dare you to watch “Lady Bird” and not call your family. That’s the spell it casts.
Featured Photo: Lucas Hedges plays Danny O’Neill in Lady Bird, and Saoirse Ronan plays lead Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson in Lady Bird. A24.