When done correctly, coming-of-age films are some of the most powerful, personal and introspective pieces of art. “Lady Bird” easily falls into this category. “Lady Bird” is a story about people, about finding one’s self and about being comfortable in one’s skin. There are no real villains, there’s hardly any fluff and there are no end-of-the-world stakes here — even if the titular character feels as if everything happening to her might as well mark the end of times. This film is real. It doesn’t pander to its audience and it takes its time to build up its characters, which carry it from start to credits.
Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement,” “Brooklyn”) is phenomenal as “Lady Bird,” a high school senior finding her way through life in the city of Sacramento, and Laurie Metcalf (“Roseanne,” “Toy Story”) is an incredible foil to her as her mother Marion. The film revolves around their relationship but writer-director Greta Gerwig does a wonderful job of not bloating the movie with scenes between the two. This helps make the scenes between Ronan and Metcalf mean something. Every time they share a shot, you know something bad, beautiful or moving is about to happen.
This film has several moments that will make you feel but it might also be the funniest movie I’ve seen all year. It’s not slapstick. It’s the everyday, awkward humor that’s littered through a person’s formative years. It’s scenes like Ronan and Beanie Feldstein’s (“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”) Julie sitting against the wall during school hours and talking about life, while snacking on church communion wafers that hit the right comedic tones again and again.
Feldstein was fantastic but so was just about everyone else in here. Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) is a star and has so many different layers in such a small but strong role. Lois Smith, Tracy Letts, Stephen Henderson and Odeya Rush are also all solid in limited roles.
I’ll say it again because it is the highest compliment that I can give a film: “Lady Bird” is real — Everything about it. From it’s small journeys into depression, to its exploration of what makes friendship real. In a film landscape that is crowded — if not overstuffed — with movies featuring machine gun showdowns and superpowers, “Lady Bird” is a satisfying palate-cleansing time that proves what makes movies great: characters, heart and story.
BOX OFFICE REVIEW
1. “Coco”: $27,533,304 (week 2); Buena Vista/Disney. Total gross: $110,108,708.
2. “Justice League”: $16,651,104 (week 3); Warner Bros. Total gross: $197,407,025.
3. “Wonder”: $12,147,182 (week 3); Lionsgate Films. Total gross: $87,679,805.
4. “Thor: Ragnarok”: $87,679,805 (week 5); Buena Vista/ Disney. Total gross: $291,633,535.
5. “Daddy’s Home 2”: $7,572,390 (week 4); Paramount. Total gross: $82,886,836.
“The Shape of Water” — An other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa's life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones
“Just Getting Started” — A two-hander action comedy in the vein of Midnight Run (1988), about an ex-F.B.I. Agent (Tommy Lee Jones) and an ex-mob lawyer in the Witness Protection Program (Morgan Freeman) having to put aside their petty rivalry on the golf course to fend off a mob hit.
Director: Ron Shelton
Cast: Glenne Headly, Morgan Freeman, Rene Russo, Tommy Lee Jones
“I, Tonya” — Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale
“November Criminals” — A teenager takes on his own investigation of a murder in Washington D.C.
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Ansel Elgort, Catherine Keener, David Strathairn