Tag Archives: Greta Gerwig

Lady Bird (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

LADY BIRD

Director: Greta Gerwig
Writer: Greta Gerwig
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts

Lady Bird is probably one of the best “coming of age” films released in recent times. Greta Gerwig’s Direction and Writing is wonderfully executed and applied to make the movie relatable and realistic. Set in 2002, the story is based in Sacramento, California and is mostly focused on the title character “Lady Bird” played by Saoirse Ronan who is in her late teens and is desperate to apply to a college in New York as an escape from what looks like a town where nothing much happens. I’ve never been to Sacramento, so I can’t really comment on the place but the character of Lady Bird wants more out of life.

The characters is fleshed out and are written with great investment, meaning you can relate to them individually. Saoirse Ronan is brilliant in the lead role. I first saw her play the role of Briony Tallis back in 2007’s Atonement when she was 13 years old and knew there was a star in the making. Here she plays Lady Bird McPherson and although experiences the usual “coming of age” obstacles at that age she portrays the character convincingly and without the usual clichés. Between Rohan’s performance and Gerwig’s direction, the actress’s performance and the way she is written is a great collaboration between both of them and you see that throughout the film in all of the characters to be fair.

Laurie Metcalf is a wonderful actress who I have admired for many years and although is mostly remembered for her comedic performances is great as the long struggling mother to Lady Bird, Marion McPherson. Marion is reserved about her feelings and executes this so realistically that when Lady Bird is frustrated by her Mother, you (the audience) feel that frustration too. There is something of an emotional wedge between the Mother and Daughter and both Metcalf and Rohan understand this in their scenes together.

Tracy Letts plays the father Larry and is Lady Bird’s go to emotionally. I understood their relationship and his character instantaneously through Letts almost calming and understanding character. I haven’t seen much of the actors performances I’m afraid and although is in The Big Short from 2015 I haven’t seen him in anything else although I will be seeing his next film The Post shortly.

Supporting the family unit is a series of friends of Lady Bird’s in Lucas Hedges who plays her first  boyfriend Danny O’Neill. Danny is somewhat a dark horse in this film and although I don’t want to spoil the characters outcome although it’s pretty obviously once you see where this characters developing and going in the story I enjoyed Hedges performance of the character and sympathised with him. Hedges is a great young actor who I thought was great in my last reviewed film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and although had a small role was memorable. The same can be said about Lady Bird’s second boyfriend played by Timothée Chalamet as Kyle Scheible. His character is more cynical and deeper than Danny and has some interesting views on the world (especially his thoughts on mobile phones are used as tracking devices by the government…remember this is set in 2002) lastly Lady Bird’s best friend is Julie Steffans played by Beanie Feldstein. Julie and Lady Bird’s relationship is typical of two teenagers in that both of them are outsiders to the rest of their school and share an interest in drama. Feldstein is mostly known for her TV work and to be honest and doesn’t have too much to do in the film and really only serves as a device to bring Lady Bird back from the clutches of spiralling into a seedier life with Kyle and his friends.

I enjoyed the cinematography and direction in this film and I felt the way it was presented gave us a good idea on what life is like for a seventeen year old girl with aspirations and her financially struggling family in Sacramento, California. Lady Bird could easily have been a run of the mill drama movie with the usual clichés. In fact, Gerwig manages to adapt a simple storyline and engage her audience with not knowing what is going to happen next or where we are going to end up with these characters. I didn’t exactly go into this movie with high expectations, nor did I go into it thinking this was going to be boring. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the film though and it’s one I think I can honestly say that I will revisit again in the near future as I enjoyed the storyline, the characters and the investment that was put in by the filmmakers. Highly Recommended.

Advertisements

Jackie (2016) Movie Review by Kevan McLaughlin

JACKIE

Director: Pablo Larraín
Writer: Noah Oppenheim
Stars: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig

A twinkling symphony of subtlety and tragedy, director Pablo Larrain delivers a lesson in how to make a biopic. The secret, it seems, is to tell a story we know so well as if it’s the first time it’s ever been told.

In the immediate aftermath of the assassination of the 35th President of the United States, Jackie Bouvier Kennedy (Portman) is forced to deal with the loss of her husband, the loss of her identity as First Lady and the fact that, even after such a devastation to the American people, the world keeps on turning.

Told through a series of flashbacks, Jackie Kennedy is interviewed only days after her husband was shot three times while riding in the back of a black Ford Lincoln in Dallas, Texas. The man Billy Crudup plays, billed as ‘The Journalist’, is clearly a representation of Theodore H White, the man who interviewed a bereaved Mrs Kennedy for his famous cover story of Life magazine.

The interview, along with her conversations with conversations with a Priest (played by the late John Hurt) act as Mrs Kennedy’s release, never being able to express herself publicly or privately with regards to her grief at losing her husband of less than a decade. She expresses anger at the way her husband was treated prior to his assassination, refusing to change out of her now famous pink Chanel suit she was wearing when the bullets hit, soaking in her husband’s blood. She wanted the press, and the world, to see the blood that should’ve been on the hands of the people who made posters of JFK accusing him of treason for attempting to bring about meaningful civil rights reform.

In her walks with the Priest, she philosophically confronts the nature of God and chance asking why is tragedy such a huge part of life and if God is in everything, was he indeed in the bullets that killed her husband. And there is her ongoing grief over the death of their infant son, Patrick, who “lived long enough for us to fall in love”.

The interview itself is more of a conversation between two people trying to construct a coherent narrative about the recent events, both with opposing opinions on how Jackie’s story should be told.

There is also the issue of the incoming President, a man hastily sworn into office as his predecessor lay dead on a hospital operating table. Of course, the world had to move on, but for Jackie she couldn’t see why it shouldn’t stop for her and her children. Lyndon B Johnson became President and Lady Bird Johnson was the new First Lady of the United States, leaving JFK in the ground and Jackie without her husband, her home and her status.

In an effort to affirm her position in the hearts of the American people, she takes charge of the funeral. She orders that the Irish Honor Guard and the Scottish Black Watch regiment be in attendance. She wants to walk six blocks from the church to the cemetery, in full view of the public, with several heads of state doing the same. Despite all efforts to advise, coerce and control her, she steamrolls her way through putting several security agencies through the ringer and causing a good few people to age rapidly.

By her side, and often at odds with her, is her husband’s younger brother Bobby Kennedy (Sarsgaard). Bobby, like Jackie, is also grieving and attempting to control the status quo in a situation which neither of them can grasp. Bobby, witnessing the television report which confirms the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, orders the entire room not to speak one word of it to Jackie in the lead up to the beginning of a grand Catholic funeral. Him telling the current president of the United States to sit down as he barks his orders is indicative of the power status. Johnson may have been the President but Bobby was a Kennedy.

Portman’s portrayal of the grieving Jackie Kennedy is frank, pragmatic and bordering on unsympathetic. As a woman who viewed her position akin to royalty, Portman’s delivers a career-defining performance as Jackie. Her apparent coldness is nothing more than pragmatism. She knows she is a woman who still holds a great deal of responsibility. And this is where Portman understands her part perfectly.

John Hurt delivers one of his final performances flawlessly as an aging Priest with wisdom and reverence. His two-handers with Portman are a joy to witness and serve as a reminder of the quality of actor the world has lost.

Billy Crudup’s performance as the Journalist is understated and thoughtful. He doesn’t act with Portman, but reacts to her delivery. He’s not in charge of the interview, or any room which occupies Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Pablo Larrain’s take on the Kennedy assassination is original and considered, without delving into the fanciful or philosophical. We get the chance to take a step back from the chaos and witness the demise of a dynasty from the point of view of the most courageous, yet vulnerable, participant. His long, dream-like sequences of a lost Jackie wandering the empty halls and rooms of the White House mirror the feeling of the film perfectly.

An original and insightful view that doesn’t involve a grassy knoll.