LADY BIRD — Review by Susan Granger

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Actress/screenwriter Greta Gerwig makes an auspicious directorial debut with this perceptive coming-of-age dramedy, chronicling the tempestuous bond between a teenager and her mother.

Set in 2002-3 in Gerwig’s hometown of Sacramento, California, it begins with novelist Joan Didion’s acerbic observation: “Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.”

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is coping with her senior year at a Catholic high school and unrest at home, since her mild-mannered father, Larry (Tracy Letts), lost his job and her strong-willed mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), works two shifts as a psychiatric nurse to keep the lower middle-class family afloat, albeit on the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks.

“I want you to be the best version of yourself,” her hypercritical, demeaning mother says. “What if this is the best version?” mildly rebellious Lady Bird counters.

Understandably eager to get away from home, just-turned-18 year-old Lady Bird secretly applies to East Coast colleges, “where the culture is,” even though her parents can barely afford in-state tuition at nearby UC Davis.

Not surprisingly, Lady Bird’s adolescent love life is awkwardly complicated, first by hunky thespian Danny O’Neill (Lucas Hedges), who is grappling with his own problems, then she loses her virginity to musician Kyle Scheible (Timothee Chalamet).

Besieged by emotional contradictions and confusion, Lady Bird recklessly jilts her sensitive BFF Julie Steffans (Beanie Feldstein) for a richer, more popular classmate, Jenna Walton (Odeya Rush).

Filmmaker Gerwig pays attention to artfully delineated supporting characters, like the insightful counseling by Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith) and the clueless ex-football coach-turned-drama director diagraming the staging of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” with X’s and O’s on a chalkboard.

And – this being Award season – look for Saoirse Ronan as a Best Actress nominee and Laurie Metcalf as a Best Supporting Actress contender.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Lady Bird” is an effectively empathetic 8, filled with sassy, bittersweet anguish.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.