Movie review: 'Lady Bird'

Brad Keefe

While there may be bigger-budget options opening in theaters this weekend, none of them will match the unique joys of “Lady Bird.”

The directorial debut from actress Greta Gerwig is a quirky indie comedy that could have easily felt paint-by-numbers. What's entirely remarkable here is that it somehow feels both familiar and fresh, specific and universal. Oh, and it's delightfully funny throughout.

Christine McPherson is her given name, but she goes by Lady Bird, a moniker chosen out of that teenage yearning for independence.

The Sacramento teenager (played to absolute perfection by Saoirse Ronan) is more like her mother (Laurie Metcalf) than her teenager-ness would ever let her admit. Her family is middle-class but under strain due to her dad's recent job loss.

Lady Bird navigates friendship, family life, sexuality, high-school politics and the looming college decision. It's a coming-of-age tale easy to relate to, but its wit and warmth make it feel one-of-a-kind.

It all starts with Gerwig's script, which gives just the right amount of weight to the exaggerated dramas of the teenage experience, and also bustles with wit.

The autobiographical nature is there but not heavy-handed. These events are set around 2002. The movie features the most unexpectedly poignant inclusion of Dave Matthews Band's “Crash Into Me” you will ever see on film. Lady Bird loses her virginity with the second Iraq War playing on the television.

There's also the unique perspective of growing up in Sacramento, which the movie aptly refers to as “the Midwest of California.” Maybe this is why this one feels so real.

But it's Gerwig's pairing with Ronan (herself one of the young stalwarts of indie film) that makes “Lady Bird” magic. This character is so real, yet so likable, which isn't an easy feat when you are realistically portraying an angst-ridden teenager.

As a reminder, we don't have a whole lot of honest, funny and good coming-of-age stories with strong female leads. “Lady Bird” is timely in that need, but its themes are timeless. It's one of the funniest and best films of the year. Oh, and it would pair nicely with another release by A24 Films in “The Florida Project.” Go see them now.

“Lady Bird”

Opens Friday

5 stars out of 5