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Review: In superb ‘Lady Bird,’ Gerwig spreads her wings

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Lady Bird” is a graceful, insightful, smart, hilarious and warm coming-of-age comedic drama that could only come from Greta Gerwig.

Gerwig is the singular comedic talent whose quirky, offbeat sense of style was on glorious display in several Noah Baumbach films, notably “Frances Ha” and “Mistress America,” both of which she co-wrote. With “Lady Bird” she makes her writing and directing debut, and it’s a compliment to her that her cinematic voice is already fully her own.

It’s also a compliment to Gerwig that the great Saoirse Ronan, at age 23 already a two-time Oscar nominee, is essentially playing her in the movie. Ronan plays Christine McPherson, a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California, in 2002 who longs to go to college in New York and makes her friends and family call her Lady Bird. (Gerwig went to a Catholic high school in Sacramento in 2002 and attended college in New York; no word if she made her friends call her Lady Bird, not that it would come as a surprise.)

Lady Bird’s parents — mom is played by Laurie Metcalf and dad is played by Tracy Letts, both are excellent — are struggling to keep up with the bills, which only adds to Lady Bird’s general sense of unease. Gerwig wonderfully captures the complicated dynamic between mother and daughter, where a minor argument while driving can lead one to suddenly hurling oneself out of a moving vehicle.

She also has a wonderful sense of rhythm, briskly moving through Lady Bird’s senior year of high school, sometimes staging major scenes in a manner of seconds. “Lady Bird” is a deeply accomplished debut, as much a love letter to Gerwig’s hometown as it is to awkward adolescence. It flies.

(313) 222-2284


‘Lady Bird’


Rated R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying

Running time: 93 minutes