Lady Bird (film)
Lady Bird is a 2017 American independent comedy-drama film written and directed by Greta Gerwig in her solo directorial debut. The film stars Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Lois Smith. Set in Sacramento, California, between the fall of 2002 and the summer of 2003, it is a coming-of-age story of a high school senior and her strained relationship with her mother.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Greta Gerwig|
|Written by||Greta Gerwig|
|Music by||Jon Brion|
|Edited by||Nick Houy|
|Box office||$78.6 million|
The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2017, and was released in the United States on November 3, 2017, by A24. Critics praised Gerwig's screenplay and direction, and the performances of Ronan and Metcalf. Lady Bird was chosen by the National Board of Review, the American Film Institute, and Time magazine as one of the ten best films of the year. 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 (Motion-Picture Musical or Comedy) (for Ronan)—and was nominated for two others. It was also nominated for three British Academy Film Awards.
In 2002, Christine McPherson is a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California. She gives herself the nickname "Lady Bird" and longs to attend a prestigious college in "a city with culture" despite her family's financial struggles, while her mother Marion often tells her that she is ungrateful for what she has. Lady Bird and her best friend Julie join their school theatre program, at the insistence of Lady Bird's academic counselor, where Lady Bird meets a boy named Danny O'Neill and develops a crush on him. After a series of run-ins with each other, Lady Bird and Danny eventually develop a romantic relationship, and, in a decision that disappoints Marion, Lady Bird decides to spend her last Thanksgiving before graduation with Danny's wealthy family instead of her own. After the opening night of the musical, their relationship ends when Lady Bird and Julie discover their boyfriends kissing one another in a bathroom stall.
At the behest of Marion, Lady Bird takes a job at a coffee shop; there, she meets Kyle, a young musician she recognizes from a show the previous semester, and the two begin dating. Jenna Walton, a popular girl at their school, is reprimanded by a nun for wearing a short skirt, and Lady Bird suggests that she and Jenna vandalize the nun's car with a sign that reads "Just Married to Jesus", during which they bond. As Lady Bird grows closer to Kyle and Jenna, she gradually deserts Julie, and drops out of the theater program. One day at the coffee shop, she spots Danny, and confronts him, but eventually consoles him after he expresses his struggle in coming out, and they become friends again.
At a house party, Kyle tells Lady Bird he is a virgin, and later on, she loses her virginity to him, but he later denies having said anything of the sort. When Lady Bird is suspended from school, Jenna tries to visit her at home, but goes instead to Danny's grandmother's house, which Lady Bird had called her "dream house", and had claimed was hers. Lady Bird admits to the lie, and while Jenna agrees to forgive her because of their mutual friendship with Kyle, she loses Jenna's trust.
Lady Bird discovers that her father Larry has lost his job and has been battling depression for years. She applies to East Coast colleges, despite Marion's insistence that the family would not be able to afford the fees, with the help of her father, who fills out her financial aid applications without Marion knowing. Lady Bird is accepted into UC Davis, but is upset because she feels it is too close to home. She subsequently learns that she has been placed on the wait list for a New York college but does not share the news with her mother, fearing her response. Lady Bird sets out for her high school prom with Kyle, Jenna, and Jenna’s boyfriend Jonah, but the other three decide to go to a house party instead. After hearing this, she changes her mind during the car ride and asks them to drop her off at Julie's apartment, where the two rekindle their friendship and go to the prom together.
After Lady Bird's graduation, Danny accidentally reveals to Marion about the wait list, and, as a result, Marion stops talking to her for the rest of the summer. On her eighteenth birthday, Lady Bird's father shares a cupcake with her. To celebrate reaching legal adulthood, Lady Bird buys a pack of cigarettes, a scratch-off ticket, and an issue of Playgirl magazine. She eventually passes her driving test and repaints her bedroom. Lady Bird learns she has been accepted by the New York college, and can afford the tuition with financial aid and her father's help. Her parents take her to the airport, but Marion refuses to go inside to say goodbye. She has a change of heart and drives back, only to discover Lady Bird has already gone through security.
Upon arriving in New York, Lady Bird finds several thoughtful letters in her luggage; her mother had written and discarded them, but her father had salvaged them. She begins using her birth name again. She is hospitalized after drinking heavily at a party. After leaving the hospital, she visits a Presbyterian Church during a service, then calls home and leaves an apologetic voicemail for her mother.
- Saoirse Ronan as Christine "Lady Bird"[a] McPherson
- Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson
- Tracy Letts as Larry McPherson
- Lucas Hedges as Danny O'Neill
- Timothée Chalamet as Kyle Scheible
- Beanie Feldstein as Julianne "Julie" Steffans
- Lois Smith as Sister Sarah Joan
- Stephen McKinley Henderson as Father Leviatch
- Odeya Rush as Jenna Walton
- Jordan Rodrigues as Miguel McPherson
- Marielle Scott as Shelly Yuhan
- Andy Buckley as Uncle Matthew
Gerwig spent years writing the screenplay. At one point it was over 350 pages long, and had the working title Mothers and Daughters. In 2015, Gerwig and her team secured financing from IAC Films, who produced the film alongside Scott Rudin Productions. Gerwig's manager, Evelyn O'Neill, also served as a producer.
Although the film has been described as "semi-autobiographical", 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". 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. She told Sam Levy, director of photography on the film, that she wanted it to feel "like a memory," and said that she "sought to offer a female counterpart to tales like The 400 Blows and Boyhood." 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.
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 ran 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 lead. In January 2016, Ronan was cast. Gerwig met with Lucas Hedges and offered him his choice of the male parts. He chose Danny. Gerwig cast Laurie Metcalf after seeing her theater work; the rest of the cast—including Tracy Letts, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, John Karna and Jordan Rodrigues—was announced in September 2016.
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. Filming began on August 30, 2016 in Sacramento, California for one week. Five weeks were spent on location in Los Angeles, with additional shooting in New York City. Gerwig had wanted to shoot the movie on Super 16 film, but due to budget constraints 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.
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". Gerwig, using a technique she learned from the filmmaker Rebecca Miller, arrived an hour before everyone else to put the actors and crew at ease by knowing exactly how the day would run. She also banned cellphones on the set, a policy borrowed from Noah Baumbach.
In July 2017, A24 acquired worldwide distribution rights to the film. The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2017, and screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2017, and at the New York Film Festival on October 8, 2017. Universal Pictures acquired international distribution rights to the film. It was released theatrically in the United States on November 3, 2017, in the United Kingdom on February 16, 2018, and in Ireland on February 23, 2018.
Lady Bird grossed $49 million in the United States and Canada, and $29.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $78.6 million.
In its limited opening weekend, it grossed $364,437 from four theaters, for a per-theater average of $91,109. It had the second best theater average of 2017, and the highest ever for a film in limited release directed by a woman. 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. 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.
The film had its official wide release on November 24, playing in 724 theaters and making $4 million over the weekend ($5.4 million over the five-day Thanksgiving frame), finishing eleventh. Expanding to 1,194 theaters the following week the film grossed $4.3 million, returning to eighth place. Lady Bird also became A24's highest-grossing film domestically, ahead of Moonlight, which made $27.9 million. 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).
Lady Bird received a standing ovation at its international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was praised for Ronan and Metcalf's performances, and Gerwig's direction. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 99% based on 378 reviews, with an average rating of 8.74/10. 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." On November 27, 2017, the film 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 has 163 positive reviews. It stayed at 100% until the 196th review was negative. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 94 out of 100, based on reviews from 50 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."
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." 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, whom he said "just seems to keep getting better all the time." Peter Debruge of Variety praised Gerwig's direction and script as well as Ronan's performance. 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.
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. 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. 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." 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".
A BBC study described the film as the "most overrated by critics" among the 2018 Oscar nominees. This was based on the difference in aggregated scores given to it by critics and collated by Metacritic compared to the scores given to it by the public on the website IMDb.
Lady Bird garnered a variety of awards and nominations. 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.
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; Gerwig became the fifth woman nominated in the Best Director category. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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