Review / ‘Lady Bird’ (MA) *** and a half

IN her directorial debut (she also wrote the screenplay, not her first), actress Greta Gerwig tells the story of Christine’s (Saoirse Ronan) final year at a Catholic High School in Sacramento.

There are strong grounds for assuming that much of the screenplay is autobiographical. Naturally, there are invented bits. But the film comes with a strong implication that its plot is fair dinkum and from the author’s heart.

The opening credits include a quotation from noted writer in several metiers and wit in any of them, Joan Didion: “Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” Gerwig is a fan of Ms Didion who also lives in Sacramento.

It’s 2002. The title is the name that Christine has given herself. Lady Bird’s father Larry (Tracy Letts) has just been laid off. Her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) is the family’s sole support. Their house is what Lady Bird calls the wrong side of the tracks. At school, she’s not popular. Sweet, overweight Julie (Beanie Feldstein) is her best chum.

The plot accompanies Lady Bird through a romance that collapses, a second crush that disappoints her for the disillusionment it brings to the loss of her virginity, trying out for the school play, the suspense of applying for university entrance, confrontations with Marion about domestic issues, etcetera, etcetera. The pace may be slow. The depth of the screenplay’s dealing with issues more than compensates.

The three women most involved in “Lady Bird” have garnered four of its five Oscar nominations. It’s not hard to understand why.

At all cinemas

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