[#2018oscardeathrace] Lady Bird (2017)

Director: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen Henderson, Lois Smith

Screenplay: Greta Gerwig

94 mins. Rated R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Director [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress [Saoirse Ronan] [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Supporting Actress [Laurie Metcalf] [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Original Screenplay [Pending]

 

I’ll be real here. I had no idea what Lady Bird was about. In fact, a small part of me thought it was a biopic about a certain famous First Lady. I had seen none of the promotional material, had heard nothing but the fact that it was a great movie. I’ve seen it twice now, and my opinion hasn’t changed.

Lady Bird McPherson (Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn, Loving Vincent) is a rebellious youth experiencing her senior year in Catholic high school in 2002 Sacramento, California. The loose narrative follows Lady Bird’s senior year while exploring her strained relationship with mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf, Scream 2, Toy Story 3), father Larry (Tracy Letts, The Big Short, The Post), and best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising). Lady Bird is a little lost in her life. Her attempts at romantic relationships aren’t turning out how she plans, she is receiving a lot of rejection letters from colleges, and the lies she is spinning to make new friends are about to unravel at the seams in this coming-of-age tale.

Lady Bird is an absolute delight. It’s not too often that I sit in the theater with a big damn joyful grin spread across my face for 90 minutes, but that’s what Lady Bird did to me. I found it to be one of the sweetest and emotionally-strong experiences I’ve had at the movies in a long time, and it’s filled with terrific performances. I loved Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name, Hostiles) as Danny and Kyle, two of the potential love interests in Lady Bird’s life.

Greta Gerwig (Nights and Weekends) wrote and directed this deeply personal tale of youth so well that I found pieces of my own experience all over the film. I saw pieces of my fiancé’s life in the film. I saw pieces of my friends’ life in the film. Gerwig doesn’t judge Lady Bird or condemn her for her bad experiences. In fact, she celebrates them. It’s a celebration of bad choices and learning, one that mothers and daughters should experience together.

Lady Bird is a perfect film. There isn’t a single thing I would change about it. I wanted to watch it immediately after finishing the film, and even now, I could sit through it again. This coming from writer/director Gerwig on her first solo outing behind the camera is excellent, and it makes her a force to be reckoned with as her career continues.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[#2017oscardeathrace] Fences (2016)

fences2016b

Director: Denzel Washington

Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney

Screenplay: August Wilson

139 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language and some suggestive references.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Denzel Washington) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Viola Davis) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Adapted Screenplay

 

You’d think, after 114 performances of Fences on the stage, Denzel Washington (The Great Debaters, Antwone Fisher) might not to partake in a screen version, and you’d be wrong.

fences2016a

Washington directs from a screenplay by the late August Wilson (The Piano Lesson) and also stars as Troy Maxson, a former baseball player in the Negro Leagues who now works as a garbage collector. Viola Davis (TV’s How to Get Away With Murder, The Help) is Rose, Troy’s wife, who does her best to keep the peace in the volatile Maxson home. Troy’s son from a previous relationship, Lyons (Russell Hornsby, TV’s Grimm, Something New), is always coming over asking for money that Troy doesn’t think he’ll ever pay back. Cory (Jovan Adepo, TV’s The Leftovers), Troy and Rose’s child, wants to be a professional football player, and he really has a shot at the NFL, but not if Troy has anything to say about it. Then there’s Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson, Con-Air, The Purge: Election Year), Troy’s brother, who suffered an injury in World War II and was mentally impaired by it. With all the happenings going on at the Maxson house, Troy focuses his attention on a fence extending around his property. But a simple fence doesn’t keep secrets and regrets and frustrations from releasing themselves and forever changing the entire Maxson family in the process.

I recall seeing Fences some years back in a smaller production and absolutely enjoying it, but this play has become Washington’s and Viola’s permanently. Each of them brings a gravitas and strength to the story that is shockingly heartfelt and heartbreaking. The chemistry between Troy and Rose is the best strength of the film.

Honestly, the most frustrating element of the film is Washington’s decision to copy and paste the play on the big screen. It’s a great play but it is not adapted into a film. Washington chose not to risk compromising any of Fences impact by not making it a movie, and for me, that’s where the film suffers. I’m not talking about fundamentally changing the way the story is, but there is zero attempt at creating a film. That being said, it’s a great play on film.

fences2016e

Overall, Fences is a very important film which captures Wilson’s original story quite well. It doesn’t really try to adapt the play so much as copy it perfectly which has some issues for me, but the film is largely focused on its incredible performers, notably Davis and Washington. This is their movie and their story is an unforgettable one.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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