Greta Gerwig pulls off a stunning achievement with “Ladybird,” which at first looks like a strong coming-of-age story, but might actually be the first epic about millennial life…[Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” might actually have this title, but Ellar Coltrane is only 23 years old and may actually be too young to be considered a millennial.]
What Works: Every detail works here, from the music choices to the richly nuanced mother/daughter relationship to “Ladybird”‘s romantic woes. [I hate to admit this, but her senior prom is like a gender-flipped version of my own experience.] Although the setting is distinctly Sacramento, this could just as easily have been Kansas or Long Island or, yes, Alabama. Laurie Metcalf (who in a just world would’ve easily won an Emmy for HBO’s “Getting On”) is a shoe-in for a Best Supporting Actress nomination as a money strapped, tough-love but still loving mother under too much economic stress to coddle and/or empathize with her daughter. [Ferocious debates may ensue as to whether she’s right or wrong to be so negative about her daughter’s future prospects.] And the always-excellent Saoirse Ronan is just as good, here adopting an impressive American accent, and (eventually) experiencing a New York journey that’s the polar opposite of the one her character in “Brooklyn” did.
What Doesn’t: [Crickets]
What I Would’ve Done Differently: It’s not really explained why Ladybird has a Mexican brother, and his character (along with his girlfriend) could’ve been easily removed if the film were too long, but at a scant 95 minutes, it really isn’t. In fact, this might be the rare film that could’ve benefitted from being longer, as you might find yourself wanting to spend just a few more minutes with these characters and finding out what happens to some of Ladybird’s friends or love interests.