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True to Life

Saturday, March 03, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Greta Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Bonan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts and others
Rating: * * * 1/2

There are many aspects of coming of age that are similar in every culture, so much so that in films and books, these stories seem clichéd. Greta Gerwig’s skill lies in making these clichés seem fresh and the characters sympathetic in her Academy Award nominated solo directorial debut 'Lady Bird'.

Ordinary Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) so wants to stand out that she gives herself the name 'Lady Bird' and colours her hair a funny shade of pink. She also wants to escape her dull, near-impoverished existence, and when taunted by her mother for low grades and lack of work ethic, flings herself out of the moving car, breaks her arm and wears cast in a large chunk of the film.

Gerwig has set the film in her own hometown of Sacramento, and in 2002, when she must have been as young as 17-year-old 'Lady Bird', and it does look like a lot of the story came out of her own life and observations of life in a small town.

Lady Bird’s love-hate relationship with her pragmatic-to-the-point-of- harshness mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf--brilliant), is at the core of the film, but Gerwig populates it with a bunch of some warm and lovely characters and some conflicted ones. She them throws them into a scenario that’s poignant, funny, realistic and utterly lacking in sentimentality.

Christine/Lady Bird is rebellious, vulnerable, prickly, soft, as she goes through the check list of teenage rites of passage—love, friendship, ambition, intoxication, sex – with a high-spirited charm that Saoirse brings to the role. Over one year, as she studies in a Catholic high school, squabbles with her mother as her suffering-from-depression father Larry (Tracy Letts) plays umpire, fights and makes up with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein), falls for a gay boy Danny (Lucas Hedges) and a cool musician Kyle (Timothée Chalamet), breaks her heart. She tries out acting on stage (a hilarious section), and starts to understand what it is like to grow up – to stop fantasising (at one point she pretends to be rich) and take charge.

'Lady Bird' is by turns, heart-warming and heart-breaking – a joy to watch. It deserves a sequel to see where Christine’s life takes her when she lets go of the 'Lady Bird' inside her.

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