One of the hardest skills to pull off in screenwriting is making the dialogue seem “normal.” Even screenwriters like Quentin Tarantino, who is praised for how “normal” the dialogue was in movies like Pulp Fiction, wasn’t really writing the kind of conversations people would have. It is difficult skill to pull off but if you manage it, it can turn a fairly average film or a movie where little of consequence happens, into one which is compelling and appealing.
Lady Bird is a case in point. From the outset, with Saoirse Ronan’s titular character in the car with her mother (played brilliantly by Laurie Metcalf), you get the sense of realism from the movie. The two have a conversation which starts politely and inconsequential but turns on a single sentence and a single moment, becoming something much more dramatic. It isn’t over-played or even “over-written” and because it feels so genuine, you become engrossed by it.
This continues throughout the whole movie and it manages to make a fairly simple and mundane story into something much more. This isn’t a film of moments. There are very few stand-out scenes or set-pieces. It is very much an indie movie, with the events primarily taking place in one location, the high-school being stereotypical and full of “quirky” but not hugely recognisable people and the whole film revolving around the journey of one central, teenage character. It’s saving grace is that it feels real.
This is also down to the excellent performances. Ronan is fantastic and under-stated in this role. Although she has shouldered movies before and arguably ones with a lot more to do, here she commands the screen effortlessly and it feels like her step-up into the spotlight. Sharing the same sort of role is Metcalf, who plays her side of the story differently and shows that she still has a place in the movies as a major supporting actress.
These two actresses, as well as the rest of the cast, manage to deliver a film which balances between drama, comedy and tragedy but never relies on “big moments.” There are no showdowns or points of conflict which you can hang the whole movie upon. It would be difficult to find the stand-out scene which will draw the crowds. This is the skill at which writer/director Greta Gerwig has created the movie: the type of movie she had started her own career making.
By the end of the film it feels like little has changed for the characters. Small victories are what is at stake here and although these are apparent, they are without fanfare and that in itself is also as realistic as it can be.
Overall, Lady Bird is a movie in which very little happens but the realism and the writing keep it engrossing. The performances are great and you root for the characters involved. It is funny, endearing and will be relatable for many people watching the simple journey of a teenage girl.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)