|UK Release Date||23rd February 2018|
|Director||GERWIG THE GREAT|
|Starring||Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Meltcalfe|
|Reviewer||Try and guess|
|Reviewed||21st February 2018|
I recently ran into a cameraman friend of mine on a train platform where I caught him redhanded secretly eating a Burger King. How we laughed. We chatted about a recent trip of mine to Berlin where I lovingly recalled meeting Greta Gerwig and making her uncomfortable by holding her hand whilst I told her how great she was. His reply was ‘who’? After getting up off the floor I found this interesting. I thought the whole world knew who Great Gerwig ‘saviour of all females working in the film industry evermore’ was. I was gobsmacked to find someone that didn’t, then again that someone did have a penis so I guess it’s not that unusual for successful women to pass them by unnoticed. At least he wasn’t claiming to BE Greta Gerwig or to have been the REAL director of Ladybird so that’s something I guess. This long preamble does actually have a point so bear with me. Ladybird was the surprise film at the London Film festival and I truly wish that was when I had seen it instead of later down the land when it had been LALA Landed the fuck out of and hyped as the Lord Jesus Christ Allah Guru Nanak of films by women. This is not to say there is much to adore about Ladybird, I just feel the almighty pressure upon it doesn’t match the sweet, funny charming coming of age story that it is. I doubt that when Gerwig was writing the film she was thinking ‘Yeah I am going to SMASH the patriarchy with this fucker’. She was probably just delighted, grateful even, that someone had actually let her a direct a film of her own composition, style and directing. Right? Well actually Gerwig had already co-directed a movie and has no less than seven screenplays to her name. So suck on that.
Ladybird tells the story of, well the self styled Ladybird (née Christine) (Saoirse Ronan) a 15 year old girl living at home in Sacramento with her mother (Laurie Metcalfe) father and brother and his Goth girlfriend. Ladybird is rushing through life with the bombastic and over confidence one only really finds in teenagers. Although she is indeed awkward (some of the one liners will make you cringe) she is never unsure of herself and the way she looks is not central to the plot, which is refreshing and also depressing that it is unusual. Know what I mean? Ladybird’s best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) however does have weight issues and it’s in this relationship that we experience the cringe inducing side of Ladybird. Her utterly teenage desire to fit in with the cool girl and discard her friend. Ladybird and Julie try out for the school play where ladybird is sidelined and Julie is given the lead. Thus it is written in the rulebook of teenage girls that here begineth the end of their relationship. Even Ladybird can’t resist the good ship jealousy though she has no idea she is doing it. At said drama club she embarks on a passionate affair with Danny played by the ever-wonderful Lucas Hedges. Danny is handsome, attentive and lives in Ladybird’s dream house. However he also has some other issues that see to the end of their relationship but not their friendship. Then comes the also disappointing cool boy Kyle (brilliantly executed Timothée Chalamet). This relationship more than any made me and I am sure countless other women sigh in resigned recognition. Teenage boys are generally fuckwits after all (this is the sage advice I shall hand down to my daughter).
For all of this blustering over boys however, the main thrust and the blood running through the veins of Ladybird is her relationship with her mother and the way that young women so often, often cruelly, misunderstand their mothers and vice versa. Ladybird’s father (Tracey Letts) is out of work and struggling with depression and Marion is carrying the family and she is angry and tired and sometimes takes it out on Ladybirds. Their relationship made me cry for the way I treated my mother, for the horrible teenage way of not even trying to understand what she or my father were going through. Of course the main reason this relationship rings so true is not just Gerwig’s always-truthful script and subtle directing but the powerhouse performances of Ronan and Metcalfe. They are what elevate this film from a sweet story into something special. Not one duff note or missed beat between them and oh boy do they make you laugh and cry and want to smack their heads together. Just like life. It is a beautiful pairing and they deserve all the plaudits lauded on them. The whole cast is wonderfully perfect and extremely well put together by Gerwig, as one would expect/hope from a great actor.
A great eye matches Gerwig’s ear for great dialogue. The same eye for detail and styling as her often collaborator Noah Baumbach (Sam Levy is the DP and frequent Baumbach collaborator). There is much more warmth and immediacy exuding from the heart of Ladybird. The characters aren't detached, they are very much real. More reminiscent of Juno in it’s quirly tone although certainly less caustic. There is a great score by one of my favourite composers Jon Brion. Coral Cunningham should also get a mention for the pitch perfect and somewhat iconic costumes.
It’s funny; when I watched Ladybird I remember feeling a little underwhelmed by it and then immediately hating myself for being such a terrible feminist. As time has gone on I have thought on it and it really is a funny, accomplished, unusual and thought provoking film. The way it has been portrayed as the first feminist teen movie (I don’t agree) is perhaps what put me off it. It’s the same thing brilliant work Gerwig has been doing for many years except now she’s officially in charge. I am thrilled Ladybird is getting all the attention but I am look-in forward to what Gerwig does next. Like Emma Stone winning an Oscar for La La Land when she really should’ve won for Battle of The Sexes. In a recent interview with Buzzfeed Gerwig recalls “It was funny, when we were actually looking for set photographs of me directing, which they use for publicity, there was a whole email chain about, “Do we have any pictures of me looking very serious and, like, pointing at something?” Because that seemed like a “director” photo. But all the pictures of me are just… I never looked in that mould of, I guess, a male director. I’m always crying behind the camera, or laughing – I’m just in it. That was my experience of directing: just being totally emotionally tied to everyone on set.”
That quote sums it up for me. So, cheers to you Greta, and may your successes kick in some doors for others to follow. Ladybird for president indeed.