Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine.
That’s my name.
Your name is Lady Bird? What the fuck are you talking about?
If you got any one of those references, then chances are, you’re exactly as nerdy as some of those that write for us. Or you just have a good taste in films. Either works.
Lady Bird is Greta Gerwig’s debut feature film and has been viewed as the example of women in Hollywood this year, especially since it was the only film that was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars that was written and directed by a woman. Not to mention one that also starred an upcoming lead actress Saoirse Ronan. Having said all these wonderful aspects, this doesn’t make it a wonderful film to watch. Or at least not as great as everyone seems to be putting it up as.
What works best for Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is her comedy writing abilities. This should also be no surprise since she was fantastically funny and co-wrote another film Frances Ha. And though she steps behind the camera this time, it’s clear that her youthful exuberance translates well into a very funny young adult comedy. This is also thanks to the wonderful performance from Saoirse Ronan, who almost seems like a reincarnation of Greta Gerwig herself. She can deliver the lines at the right level of sarcasm and satire to make each punchline stick. They make a great pair and I hope they continue working together in the future.
But whilst Lady Bird’s screenplay works great for comedic tones, it is nothing we haven’t seen before for the other aspects. And this is surprising because the film was also nominated for Original Screenplay. But when I watch the film, I see the same overused tropes that plague many other young adult comedies that are just like it. By this, I mean employing the old familiar, “I have a best friend but I’ll sacrifice that relationship to get popular and then realize that was a bad mistake and go back to my original best friend because they love me for who I really am” plot. I mean, has this not been a staple for films such as Mean Girls, 21 Jump Street, and The Duff.
To pull such a stunt at this point just feels so cheesy for a high school film and it needs to be banished. It’s akin to what Pixar has currently been doing with having a hidden villain trope for films such as Frozen and Coco. We get what’s going to happen and we’re tired of it. Show us something different and original.
And much like the originality of the screenplay, Greta Gerwig’s directing wasn’t anything eye-grabbing either. Most shots felt like a standard setup of shot-reverse shots, that didn’t really show anything new or dynamic. These setups felt more akin to that of how every sit-com is directed instead of a feature film. I would have enjoyed having the scenes played out with a variety of shot setups – each different and tailored to the style of the scene. Show me a short continuous shot with no cuts and let the actors pace their emotions in the scene. Move the camera from one position to the other without breaking the tension but setting up two unique shots when each character speaks. Variety is key and with Lady Bird there was none.
Perhaps this was due to the screenplay, since it may have not called for much more. But that’s the problem. A standard high school comedy it is, but an Oscar-worthy picture it is not. Lady Bird shows great growth in the potential for women to be funny, which is a career trait that is often populated by men, but it’s unoriginality and basic directing ultimately drags it down to the ranking at which it sits. So yes, I’d still recommend seeing it if you haven’t already, as it still is funny, but it is a film that is nothing more, nothing less.