LADY BIRD — Review by Linda Cook

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“Lady Bird” is as edgy, raw and funny as growing up. Screenwriter/director Greta Gerwig has wrought a gem of a coming-of-age film set in 2002. Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”) plays Christine McPherson, a senior at a private Catholic high school. The girl who wants to be known as “Lady Bird” gives the teachers and some of her classmates a run for their money with her approach to authority.

That’s not to mention the contentious relationship she has with her mother (the wonderful Laurie Metcalf). Christine longs to leave home for college, but her mother insists she doesn’t stand a chance at getting into a really good school. “I hate California,” Christine says. “I want to go to the east coast. I want to go where culture is like, New York, or Connecticut or New Hampshire.”

The two bicker about … well, about nearly everything … despite the obvious fact that they love each other very much. The movie opens with a scene between the two strong-willed women in which Christine throws herself out of a moving car.

Christine spends hours with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein, in a terrific performance) talking, of course, about boys and sex. But Christine and Julie have a falling out when Christine’s life takes a new direction.

Meanwhile, Christine catches the eye of a boy (Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”) in the school theater group. And she enlists the assistance of her good-natured father (Tracy Letts, “The Lovers”) when she begins her college application process.

Christine dives headlong into some pretty bad decisions and ends up in ridiculous situations. Still, she thinks she knows it all: “I think we’re done with the learning portion of high school,” she says at one point.

Christine is maddening, but Gerwig never makes her character appear to be less than lovable. Ronan beautifully embodies all the facets of her character: Christine remains charming, silly and sometimes hilariously insightful through all her misadventures.

Each scene, in fact, is insightful about the era, the pop culture and the characters that inhabit this movie. You’re bound to see someone who seems familiar to you, because the characters all are so true-to-life.

In fact, none of the characters in this film is a villain. Some are awkward, certainly, and some act selfishly. But never is there a sense that one person is out to ruin another’s life.

A wonderful soundtrack runs through this film, with an eclectic mix of tunes by the likes of John Hartford and Justin Timberlake.

It’s a terrific film — a rare bird indeed.

Originally pubished in Quad City Times.

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Linda Cook

Linda Cook earned bachelor degrees in English and elementary education from Monmouth (Illinois) College, She's a reporter and film critic at the Quad-City Times, and reviews films for NBC affiliate KWQC. She earned a master of criminal justice degree at St. Ambrose University, Davenport, and has been an instructor there for many years.