In just over a week, Hollywood’s biggest stars will all cram into a big venue and sit through a long evening of profound speeches and thank-you’s and tears, all interspersed with ‘sharp’, topical jokes from Jimmy Kimmel (I do actually like him to be fair). All in all, it’s pretty boring, we just want to know who wins the awards. All the awards are huge, however undeniably, the ‘Big 3’ are ‘Best Actor’, ‘Best Actress’ and ‘Best Picture’. The race for ‘Best Picture’ is, as usual, really quite close I feel. ‘Three Billboards’ would probably be called the favourite, however ‘Get Out’, ‘The Shape of Water’, ‘Darkest Hour’, ‘Dunkirk’ and ‘The Post’ will all mount a serious challenge, as of course will ‘Lady Bird’. Up until Oscar night, I’m going to try and cover all of the nominees, and if I don’t get through them all then I’ll write about them afterwards. I do still need to watch ‘Darkest Hour’, ‘Call Me By Your Name’ and ‘Phantom Thread’. However, I am starting with my most recent watch, and joint favourite of the nominees, ‘Lady Bird’.
For those of you that have not yet seen this film, it’s the coming-of-age story of a 17 year old girl called Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson, and largely her relationship with her over-bearing mother. It’s rare for a directorial debut to be so strong, but Greta Gerwig delivers a charming, witty and heartbreaking film, which will really hit home for most teenagers and parents alike. (Side note: the fact that my two favourite films of the year are both directorial debuts is just mad). Led by yet another magnificent performance from rising star Saorise Ronan and the brilliant Laurie Metcalfe, ‘Lady Bird’ tells the story of a girl who thinks her life lacks meaning. She says that she wishes she could “live through something”, and wants to go to college in New York and experience love and be popular and do well in Maths and have a lead part in the school play. It portrays teenagehood perfectly, in that stage where you’re convinced that you’re ready to be independent and go off into the world, but your mum isn’t quite so sure. Ronan plays Christine perfectly, and thrives in the subtleties of the part. While Gredwig has powerful, gut-wrenching scenes, especially at the end (expect tears), Ronan is quieter and understated, but superb all the same, and is undoubtedly my pick to win ‘Best Actress’. The supporting cast are also brilliant, with Homeland’s Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Fieldstein and Manchester By the Sea’s Lucas Hedges providing more than solid support. A word on Lucas Hedges; has any actor ever featured in such consistently brilliant films by the age of 21?! The guy has been in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’, ‘Manchester By the Sea’ and now this. Hedges is a star in the making and has a huge career ahead of him.
Although Ronan, Metcalfe and Hedges are wonderful, the real star of the show is Gerwig’s remarkable screenplay. It’s definitely a comedy-drama, and really excels in both areas of the genre. There are moments of laugh-out-loud comedy and moments of indescribable sadness, all while retaining a very ‘indie’ film feel. I’m unsure whether ‘Lady Bird’ intended to mock teenagers or to pay tribute to them. It’s hard to tell. In lots of ways, I took it as the former. There are obvious parallels to Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for me. Without going full English nerd, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is basically a parodical, hyperbolic love story which makes fun of young love. In the very first scene, Romeo claims that he has fallen head-over-heels in love with a girl (he hasn’t met Juliet yet). But no more than 4 scenes later, he’s already kissing Juliet and falling in love with her, and we never hear about the other girl again. What Shakespeare’s trying to show is that, in his opinion, young love is fickle, doesn’t mean much, and teenagers will fall in love with someone else two seconds after the last one. I think Gerwig gives a similar message in ‘Lady Bird’. Christine’s romance with Hedges’ Danny is short, intense and ‘perfect’, like a traditional love story. It’s beautiful and poignant and charming. Then, literally 10 minutes of screentime later (I checked), we see her eyeing up Chalamet’s Kyle at a concert. If that’s not a dig at teenage love, I don’t know what is.
In this film, Gerwig serves up two likeable characters who flit between loving each other and hating each other. It’s hard to know who to side with. Christine is like most teenagers: narcissistic and sullen with her mum, but also ambitious, affectionate and self-depricatingly witty. Meanwhile, Marion is loving, hard-working and intensely caring, but also controlling and strict. Both women think they know best, and really neither do. Fundamentally, we get the message that teenagers can never fully appreciate everything that parents do for them, even if they try, and that parents, despite best intentions, can rarely act in the way that their child wants them to. It’s difficult for both, and this all comes to a boil near the end of the film at the airport when Christine heads off for college in New York. Trust me, if you’re a parent this scene will have you in tears. I think this film gives a similar message to Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’; there’s no need for big life moments that are meaningful at the time, because with hindsight you realise that it’s the small moments that really count. It’s rare for a film to so perfectly capture what life is all about, and really make you rethink your philosophy, but I think especially for teenagers and parents, this is one of them. Check it out.
Best scene: The airport
Best character: Julie
Best actor/actress: Saorise Ronan
Best quote: “What if this is the best version?” – Christine