Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Film Review No. 38 Lady Bird (15+)

Strong Points:
Weaving plot points into general conversation
Superb acting all round
Great attention to detail
Funny and dramatic at the same time
Little theatre references
Grainy film style
Likeable characters
Excellent pacing

Weak Points:
Takes a while to find a plot
Some characters deserved more time

Some spoilers ahead:

In-depth Review:
As a Year 13 (or senior for US readers) myself, one aspect of Lady Bird really sticks with me. How does she find the time to do all of this? I mean, I can barely write this review in a reasonable time, writing a paragraph here or there while waiting for some other work to load. It's amazing really.

Slight digression aside, Lady Bird is a great film. It deals with the typical coming-of-age ideas with originality and grace, adding surprising emotional depth and characters you can empathise with. Of course, 'Lady Bird', played by Saoirse Ronan, is the star of the show and boy does she go for it. A slightly less than typical teen, battling with class issues, the wake of 9/11, relationships and being told to just settle for what she has, Ronan makes a character who you simultaneously want to succeed and knocked down a peg at the same time.

This is about the same for the other characters, who I won't describe here - it's better to experience them organically. However, just know there's a wide mix of characters and scenes ranging from the humorous (my favourite scene involved a random football coach) to the downright brilliant (anything with 'Lady Birds' parents in).

One aspect of the film I really liked was how everyone else's lives also progressed alongside 'Lady Bird'. Some films take a very hero-centric approach in their storytelling, which is fine, as it allows a fully developed character to form before our eyes. However, it does mean some side characters are reduced to stereotypes to quickly fill their personalities and move on. Lady Bird starts out like this but uses a clever technique to push the other characters along. Through the general conversations throughout the film, 'Lady Bird' and other characters push the rest of the cast to greater development.

Sometimes this is done very openly, like when 'Lady Bird' tells her brother that he will never get a job if he has all his piercings. Sure enough, in the next scene he has removed his piercing. This subtle development of a character which could have been left eccentric left more of an effect on me than some of the plights of the titular character. They could have even done more sometimes, with, for example, the drama teacher and his battle with mental illness. Not a lot - the film isn't about him, but it shows the level of writing that I was so invested in all characters no matter how big their respective parts.

However, I do have one criticism with the writing - if I hadn't watched the trailer, I would have been lost. As the film is a 'slice-of-life' picture, in that 'Lady Bird' and her story started before the film and finishes after it, it sort of throws you into the film and expects you to just watch. It takes incredible skill to make a film which allows you to become instantly immersed, and I'm afraid this isn't quite one of them. It took me a good 20 minutes to become fully involved with the characters and story, and in a 90-minute film, that's quite a long time.

We'll finish on the film style. The colour correction is what I'd describe as grainy, although as a compliment. It gives a unique feel to the film, both modern and old-fashioned at the same time. You feel like you're watching 'Lady Bird' relieving her past from a more secure point in her life, distancing you from the feel enough to allow you to think. Except when Marion McPherson is having an inner battle with herself about the airport. Then you'll just be crying. Bravo, Sheldon's mum.

Conclusion: Lady Bird is a difficult film to explain, even more so while trying to avoid spoilers. The nearest comparison I have for this film would be The Meyerowitz Stories, another tough to explain film. A curious mix of dark comedy and drama, with complex, emotionally different characters which I would both heartily recommend and not depending on my mood at any point in time. It's a film I think you should see if nothing more than because of the excellent craft on show.

Rating: 82%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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