Lady Bird (R)
According to the website Rotten Tomatoes, the coming-of-age movie “Lady Bird” has a 100% rating and recently surpassed “Toy Story 2” with the consecutive “fresh” reviews and no “rotten” reviews. While I am not sure what constitutes a fresh movie, my guess is it means that everyone loves “Lady Bird.”
Greta Gerwig, who is best known for being cute and quirky in indie movies like “Frances Ha” and “Lola Versus,” wrote and directed the semi-autobiographical “Lady Bird,” (R) about a high school senior who cannot wait to graduate and leave Sacramento.
Christine (Saoirse Ronan) demands that everyone call her “Lady Bird,” (which is a lot easier to say and spell than Saoirse), just one more annoyance for her hard-working and overwhelmed mom, Marian (Laurie Metcalf). While Lady Bird dreams of attending an East Coast college, mom has no problem reminding her daughter that A) they don’t have the money and B) She’s not that great a student. This doesn’t seem to faze Lady Bird.
If you’ve raised a daughter who wasn’t 100% perfect, the odds are that you will relate to Lady Bird’s relationship with her mom. I know I did. There is at least one argument in the movie that I am sure took place word-for-word in my own personal kitchen.
What is pretty amazing about “Lady Bird” is that on paper, the film is loaded with screenplay clichés - girl falls for “bad boy,” girl dumps long-time best friend for the cool girl in school, dad helps girl behind mom’s back. But on screen, every moment feels real. Who knows, maybe when Gerwig was a senior, she fell for a theater student, ate communion wafers with her best friend, and lied about where she lived.
Ronan, who at 23 has already been nominated for two Academy Awards, is wonderful as Lady Bird. She’s awkward and cool at the same time, endearing and infuriating, you can see why she drives her mom crazy. Every move she makes and word she says, feels authentic. While the movie is set in 2002, I agree with my friend who said, “It could be any time.”
Metcalf matches Ronan in skill and sensitivity at every turn. Even when she’s saying hurtful things, it’s obvious she loves her daughter. And like I said, we’ve almost all been there. Gerwig gets fine performances from everyone in the cast, and Lucas Hedges, who was so good in “Manchester by the Sea,” proves he’s the real deal, playing Lady Bird’s conflicted boyfriend from drama class.
“Lady Bird” is my favorite film of the year so far, and I’ll bet you right now that Ronan and Metcalf will both be nominated for acting Oscars and Gerwig for writing, and I hope, directing. “Fresh” indeed.
Lady Bird: 5 STARS
Confession, I cried and/or sniffled about 9.5 times watching “Wonder,” and only two of those times was because of the Amish-inspired outfits worn by star Julia Roberts.
“Wonder” is a lovely film based on a best-selling young adult novel by A.J. Palacio, about a boy named Auggie Pullman, who has a facial deformity. He’s been home-schooled by his devoted mother Isabel (Roberts), but the time has come for him to attend the tony private middle school down the street from his family’s tony New York City apartment.
Bad things happen to Auggie at school and then good things. Meanwhile his older sister Via feels like she’s invisible since she’s basically left to her own devices while her parents devote all their attention to Auggie. The movie doesn’t neglect her, and we get to see her pursue a relationship with a fellow drama student (see “Lady Bird”) as she deals with her best friend dropping her for the more popular girls in school (Uh, that sounds familiar.)
The message of “Wonder,” and at least two of the characters say it aloud, is that when we have a choice, we should always be kind. One of the most moving scenes in the film is when Auggie brings home a friend from school. An everyday occurrence in most families, it is almost overwhelming for Isabel and rapturous for Auggie (two tissues, please)
Jacob Tremblay, 11, gave one of the best performances of the year in 2015’s “Room.” He is so natural and sensitive here, it’s just astounding. Julia Roberts underplays her role nicely, instead of getting all “How dare you treat my son this way!” Owen Wilson as the dad, actually wears a suit, works full-time and acts his age through the whole movie, probably a first for the actor who usually plays off-beat and immature characters.
My only complaint about “Wonder” is that with so much going on with the kids, the relationship between Isabel and Nate is brushed aside. We do not learn much about them and frankly, Roberts and Wilson are not that convincing as a couple. Also, they apparently have zero financial woes, so the cost of health insurance, private school, therapy, etc., aren’t issues at all. However, in “Wonder”, the message and the emotions win.
Wonder: 4 STARS