Lady Bird (film)

Lady Bird is a 2017 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film written and directed by Greta Gerwig in her solo directorial debut. Set in Sacramento, California from fall 2002 to fall 2003, the film tells the story of a high school senior and her strained relationship with her mother. It stars Saoirse Ronan in the title role with Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Lois Smith in supporting roles.

Lady Bird
Lady Bird poster.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGreta Gerwig
Written byGreta Gerwig
Produced by
Starring
CinematographySam Levy
Edited byNick Houy
Music byJon Brion
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 1, 2017 (2017-09-01) (Telluride)
  • November 3, 2017 (2017-11-03) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$10 million[3]
Box office$79 million[4]

Lady Bird premiered at the 44th Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2017, and was theatrically released in the United States on November 3, 2017, by A24. The film received widespread critical acclaim, with reviewers praising Gerwig's screenplay and direction, and the performances of Ronan and Metcalf. It was considered by many critics as one of the best films of 2017 and one of the best films of the 2010s. Lady Bird was chosen by the National Board of Review, the American Film Institute, and Time magazine as one of the top ten films of 2017.[5][6][7] At the 90th Academy Awards, it earned five nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (for Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (for Metcalf), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director. At the 75th Golden Globe Awards, the film won two awards—Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) and Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy (for Ronan)—and was nominated for two others. It was also nominated for three British Academy Film Awards.

PlotEdit

In the fall of 2002, Christine McPherson is a senior at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic high school[a] in Sacramento, California. She gives herself the nickname "Lady Bird." Despite her family's financial struggles, she longs to attend a prestigious college in "a city with culture" somewhere on the East Coast. Her mother, Marion, does not believe Christine's dreams are possible and tells her that she is ungrateful for what she has. An argument between Christine and Marion prompts the former to jump from a moving car, breaking her arm. Christine and her best friend Julie join their school theater program, where Christine develops a crush on Danny, who attends the adjacent boys' school. They begin dating, and Christine disappoints Marion by spending her last Thanksgiving before graduation with Danny's wealthy family instead of her own. After the opening night of the school production of Merrily We Roll Along, Christine and Danny break up when she catches him kissing a boy in a bathroom stall.

At Marion's behest, Christine begins working at a coffee shop where she meets Kyle, a popular student at the boys' school. Christine ditches tryouts for the new school play to bond with Jenna Walton, a popular girl, and they vandalize a nun's car. As she grows closer to Kyle and Jenna, Christine begins spending less time with Julie and drops out of the theater program. She consoles Danny one day when he tearfully expresses his fear of coming out, and they become friends again.

At a house party, Christine and Kyle kiss, and he tells her he is a virgin. She later loses her virginity to Kyle, and he reveals that he has had intercourse before. This revelation upsets Christine and prompts her to seek comfort from her mother. After Christine is suspended from school for speaking up at an anti-abortion assembly, Jenna tries to visit her at home. Jenna discovers that Christine claimed Danny's grandmother's house as her own to impress her. Christine admits to the lie, and Jenna agrees to forgive her because of their mutual friendship with Kyle, although their friendship becomes strained.

Christine learns that her father, Larry, has been out of a job and battling depression for years. She applies to East Coast colleges with her father's help, despite her mother's insistence that their family cannot afford the fees. They do this without Marion knowing. Christine is accepted at UC Davis but is upset because she feels it is too close to home. After learning she is on the wait list for a university in New York City, she does not share the news with Marion. Christine sets out for her prom with Kyle, Jenna, and Jenna's boyfriend, but the other three decide to go to a house party instead. Christine initially agrees but then changes her mind and says she wants to go to the prom. Christine asks them to drop her off at Julie's, where the two rekindle their friendship and go to the prom together.

After graduation, Danny accidentally reveals Christine's place on a college waitlist in front of Marion, who stops speaking to her for the rest of the summer. Her parents take her to the airport, but Marion refuses to go inside to say goodbye. Marion begins crying while leaving the airport and drives back, only to discover that Christine has already gone through security. She cries in Larry's arms, who consoles her.

After arriving in New York, Christine finds several letters addressed to her in her luggage. The letters were written and initially discarded by her mother, but secretly collected and passed along by her father. She begins using her given name again and is hospitalized after drinking heavily at a party. Leaving the hospital, she visits a Presbyterian church service and is moved to tears. She calls home and leaves an apologetic voicemail message for her mother, thanking her for everything she has done for her.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

DevelopmentEdit

Gerwig spent years writing the screenplay. At one point it was over 350 pages long, and had the working title Mothers and Daughters.[9] In 2015, Gerwig and her team secured financing from IAC Films, who produced the film alongside Scott Rudin Productions.[10] Gerwig's manager, Evelyn O'Neill, also served as a producer.[10]

Although the film has been described as "semi-autobiographical",[11] Gerwig has said that "nothing in the movie literally happened in my life, but it has a core of truth that resonates with what I know".[9] To prepare the cast and crew, Gerwig gave them her old high-school yearbooks, photos, and journals, as well as passages written by Joan Didion, and took them on a tour of her hometown.[12][13] She told Sam Levy, director of photography on the film, that she wanted it to feel "like a memory,"[14] and said that she "sought to offer a female counterpart to tales like The 400 Blows and Boyhood."[11] The film was Gerwig's first as a solo director; in 2008, she had co-written and co-directed Nights and Weekends with Joe Swanberg.[15]

CastingEdit

In September 2015, Gerwig met with Saoirse Ronan at the Toronto International Film Festival, where they were promoting Maggie's Plan and Brooklyn respectively. They read through the script in a hotel room, with Ronan reading the part of Lady Bird, and Gerwig reading the other characters. Gerwig realized by the second page that Ronan was the right choice for the title role.[16][17] In January 2016, Ronan was cast.[18] Gerwig met with Lucas Hedges and offered him his choice of the male parts. He chose Danny.[19][20] Gerwig cast Laurie Metcalf after watching her theater work;[21] the rest of the cast—including Tracy Letts, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, John Karna and Jordan Rodrigues—was announced in September 2016.[22][23][24]

FilmingEdit

Principal photography was scheduled to begin in March 2016, but was delayed to August due to Ronan's commitments to a performance of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.[25] Filming began on August 30, 2016, in Sacramento, California for one week. Five weeks were spent on location in Los Angeles,[10] with additional shooting in New York City and filming wrapped on October 1, 2016.[26] Gerwig had wanted to shoot the film on Super 16 film, but due to budget constraints she ultimately shot on the Arri Alexa Mini. In post-production, the filmmakers emphasized digital noise to create the effect of a copy of a photograph.[27]

Ronan dyed her hair red for the role, and did not wear makeup to cover her acne; she has said she saw the film as "a really good opportunity to let a teenager's face in a movie actually look like a teenager's face in real life".[28] Gerwig, using a technique she learned from filmmaker Rebecca Miller, arrived an hour before everyone else to put the cast and crew at ease by knowing exactly how the day would run. She also banned cellphones on the set, a policy borrowed from her partner, filmmaker Noah Baumbach.[29]

ReleaseEdit

In July 2017, A24 acquired worldwide distribution rights to the film.[30] The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2017,[31] and screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2017,[32] and at the New York Film Festival on October 8, 2017.[33] Focus Features acquired international distribution rights to the film.[34] It was released theatrically in the United States on November 3, 2017,[35] in the United Kingdom on February 16, 2018, and in Ireland on February 23, 2018.[36]

ReceptionEdit

Box officeEdit

Lady Bird grossed $49 million in the United States and Canada, and $30 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $79 million.[4]

In its limited opening weekend, it grossed $364,437 from four theaters, for a per-theater average of $91,109.[37] It had the second best theater average of 2017, and the highest ever for a film in limited release directed by a woman.[38] The film expanded to 37 theaters in its second weekend, and grossed a three-day total of $1.2 million, finishing tenth at the box office.[39] In its third weekend, the film expanded to 238 theaters, and grossed a three-day total of $2.5 million, finishing eighth at the box office.[40]

The film had its official wide release on November 24, playing in 724 theaters and making $4.1 million over the weekend ($5.4 million over the five-day Thanksgiving frame), finishing eleventh.[41] Expanding to 1,194 theaters the following week the film grossed $4.3 million, returning to eighth place.[42] Lady Bird also became A24's highest-grossing film domestically, ahead of Moonlight, which made $27.9 million.[43] The weekend of January 27, 2018, following the announcement of the film's five Oscar nominations, it made $1.9 million (an increase over the previous week's $1.1 million).[44]

Critical responseEdit

Lady Bird received a standing ovation at its international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival,[45] and was praised for Ronan and Metcalf's performances, and Gerwig's direction.[46][47] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 99% based on 398 reviews, with an average rating of 8.80/10. The website's critical consensus reads "Lady Bird delivers fresh insights about the turmoil of adolescence and reveals debuting writer-director Greta Gerwig as a fully formed filmmaking talent."[48] On November 27, 2017, it became the most-reviewed film ever to remain at 100% on the site with 164 positive reviews, beating previous record holder Toy Story 2, which had 163 positive reviews at the time.[49] It stayed at 100% until its 196th review was negative.[50][51] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 93 out of 100, based on reviews from 50 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."[52]

A.O. Scott of The New York Times described Lady Bird as "big-screen perfection ... exceptionally well-written, full of wordplay and lively argument. Every line sounds like something a person might actually say, which means that the movie is also exceptionally well acted."[53] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote the film was "modestly scaled but creatively ambitious" and "succeeds on its own terms as a piquant audience pleaser", and gave praise to Ronan, who he said "just seems to keep getting better all the time."[54] Peter Debruge of Variety praised Gerwig's direction and script as well as Ronan's performance.[47] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote the film was "simply beautiful" and "warm and inspired", hailing the performances of Ronan and Metcalf as well as Gerwig's direction and screenplay.[55]

The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday described the film as a "triumph of style, sensibility and spirit" while similarly praising Ronan's performance and Gerwig's direction.[56] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone rated the film 3.5 out of four stars in which he deemed it as "simply irresistible" and complimented the film's plot and narrative while highlighting the performances of Ronan and Metcalf in which he stated as an "Oscar calling" and Gerwig's direction as "full-blown triumph". He also declared it as one of the year's best films.[57] Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film "unique and original and fresh and wonderful" and "appealing" while lauding the performances (particularly Metcalf and Letts) in which he remarked that "There’s no level of acting on a higher plane than what [Metcalf] and [Letts] achieve in this film. This is what greatness looks like."[58] Alonso Duralde of TheWrap remarked that "Gerwig the actress skillfully pivots between the wacky and the poignant, so it's no surprise that Gerwig the auteur so delicately balances hilarity and heartbreak".[59]

In Paste, Jim Vorel argued that the film portrays an abusive maternal relationship and noted the similarities of Marion's behavior to those with borderline personality disorder.[60]

AccoladesEdit

Lady Bird garnered a variety of awards and nominations.[61] The film was chosen by the National Board of Review, the American Film Institute, and Time magazine as one of the top 10 films of 2017.[5][62][63] In 2018, Lady Bird was awarded The ReFrame Stamp in the 2017 Narrative & Animated Feature category.[64]

At the 90th Academy Awards, it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Gerwig, Best Actress for Ronan, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Metcalf.[65] It did not win in any of the five categories in which it was nominated.

The film also received eight nominations at the 23rd Critics' Choice Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Acting Ensemble.[66] At the 75th Golden Globe Awards, it was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (won), Best Actress – Musical or Comedy for Ronan (won), Best Supporting Actress for Metcalf, and Best Screenplay.[67] At the 24th Screen Actors Guild Awards, it was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for Ronan, Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for Metcalf, and Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.[68]

In a series of articles regarding the best of the 2010s in film, IndieWire ranked Lady Bird as the 10th best film of the decade. Rolling Stone ranked it 23rd, The A.V. Club ranked it 10th, Business Insider ranked it 5th, and Consequence of Sound ranked it 90th. It was the 13th most overall mentioned on best of decade lists tying with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse according to Metacritic. In 2018, IndieWire writers ranked the script the eighth best American screenplay of the 21st century.[69]

Potential sequelsEdit

In February 2018, on an episode of The A24 Podcast, Gerwig expressed interest in making spiritual successors to Lady Bird, saying "I would like to do a quartet of Sacramento films" modeled on the Neapolitan Novels of Elena Ferrante.[70]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Lady Bird attends an all-girls Catholic school which has an adjoining Catholic boys' high school, with which the students participate in co-educational activities.
  2. ^ The nickname does not derive from former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, but the Mother Goose nursery rhyme Ladybird Ladybird.[8]

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit