Lady Bird (film)

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Lady Bird
Lady Bird poster.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Greta Gerwig
Produced by
Written by Greta Gerwig
Music by Jon Brion
Cinematography Sam Levy
Edited by Nick Houy
Distributed by
Release date
  • September 1, 2017 (2017-09-01) (Telluride)
  • November 3, 2017 (2017-11-03) (United States)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10 million[1]
Box office $37.8 million[2]

Lady Bird is a 2017 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Greta Gerwig, and starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Lois Smith. Set in Sacramento, California, it is a coming-of-age story of a high-school senior (Ronan) and her turbulent relationship with her mother (Metcalf).

Lady Bird premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2017, was theatrically released in the United States on November 3, 2017 by A24, and has grossed $37.8 million (United States) against its $10 million budget. It was chosen by the National Board of Review, the American Film Institute, and Time magazine as one of the top 10 films of the year.[3][4][5] At the 75th Golden Globe Awards, Lady Bird won for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Ronan), and also received nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Metcalf) and Best Screenplay. At the 71st British Academy Film Awards, the film earned three nominations: Best Actress in a Leading Role for Ronan, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Metcalf and Best Original Screenplay.


Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson is a senior student at a Catholic high school in the suburbs of Sacramento, in 2002. She lives with her parents, with whom she has a strained relationship, her older brother, who is adopted, and his girlfriend. Lady Bird is best friends with Julianne "Julie" Steffans. Lady Bird and Julie join their school's theatre program, where Lady Bird meets a young man named Danny O'Neill. They develop a romantic relationship, leading to Lady Bird joining Danny's family for Thanksgiving dinner rather than doing so with her own family. Their relationship is abruptly broken when Lady Bird finds Danny making out with a boy in a bathroom stall. At the behest of her mother, Lady Bird takes on a menial job at a coffee shop, where she meets an edgy musician named Kyle Scheible. He and Lady Bird begin a romantic relationship, and she begins to drift away from Julie in favor of a friendship with a popular girl named Jenna Walton.

After Jenna is reprimanded by nun teacher Sister Sarah Joan for wearing a short skirt, Jenna bonds with Lady Bird by harmlessly vandalizing Joan's car. Lady Bird tells Jenna that she lives at an address which actually belongs to Danny's grandmother. Lady Bird drops out of the theatre program, and is later confronted by Danny outside of the coffee shop, where she consoles him after he expresses his struggle to come out. She loses her virginity to Kyle after he falsely refers to himself as a virgin, leading her to find consolation in her mother. Jenna discovers that Lady Bird lied about her address, which essentially ends their friendship. Lady Bird is told that her father has recently lost his job, and discovers that he is battling depression.

Lady Bird begins applying to colleges, hoping to be accepted into one that is out-of-state, despite her mother's insistence that the family could not afford it. She receives several rejection letters, but is elated to discover that she has been placed on the wait list for a university in New York. Despite her uneasy relationship with them, she sets out for her high school's prom alongside Kyle, his friend, and his friend’s date but they decide to go to a party. Lady Bird asks them to drop her off at Julie's apartment, where the two rekindle their friendship and go to the prom together. Lady Bird passes her driving test and repaints her bedroom, removing drawings, photos, and writing from her walls. Her mother discovers that she has applied to out-of-state universities behind her back, causing her mother to give her the silent treatment.

In 2003, on her eighteenth birthday, Lady Bird's father shares a cupcake with her and jokes that he and her mother cannot afford a divorce. Now of legal age, Lady Bird buys a pack of cigarettes, a scratch-off ticket, and an issue of Playgirl from a convenience store. Lady Bird eventually leaves for New York; her mother coldly drives her to the airport, where Lady Bird heads to the terminal with her father. Lady Bird believes her mother does not want to see her or say good bye to her, but in reality, her mother does not want Lady Bird to see her cry. While driving, she has a change of heart and rushes back in to the airport, but Lady Bird has already left.

In New York, after finding thoughtful letters written by her mother and salvaged by her father, Lady Bird decides to go by the name Christine again. She is briefly hospitalized after drinking an excessive amount of alcohol at a party. After leaving the hospital, she observes a Sunday church service. Outside the church, Christine calls home with her cell phone and leaves an apologetic message for her mother.




Gerwig spent several years writing the screenplay—which at one point was over 350 pages in length under the working title Mothers and Daughters.[7] In 2015, Gerwig and her team secured financing from IAC Films, who also produced the film alongside Scott Rudin Productions.[8] Gerwig's manager, Evelyn O'Neill, also served as a producer.[8]

Although the film has been described as semi-autobiographical,[9] Gerwig has clarified that "nothing in the movie literally happened in my life, but it has a core of truth that resonates with what I know".[7] To prepare the cast and crew, Gerwig gave them her old high-school yearbooks, photos, and journals, as well as passages written by Joan Didion—and took them on a tour of her hometown.[10][11] She told the director of photography, Sam Levy, she wanted the film to feel "like a memory,"[12] and has said that she "sought to offer a female counterpart to tales like The 400 Blows and Boyhood."[9]


In September 2015, Gerwig met with Saoirse Ronan at the Toronto International Film Festival, where they were promoting Maggie's Plan and Brooklyn, respectively. They ran through the script in a hotel room, with Ronan reading the part of Lady Bird, and Gerwig reading the other characters. Gerwig realized when they got to page two that Ronan was the right choice to play the lead.[13][14] In January 2016, Ronan was officially cast.[15] Gerwig met with Lucas Hedges and offered him his choice from the male parts. He chose Danny, which Gerwig had written with him in mind.[16][17] Gerwig cast Laurie Metcalf after seeing her theater work;[18] the rest of the cast—including Tracy Letts, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, John Karna and Jordan Rodrigues—was announced in September 2016.[19][20][21]


Principal photography on the film was initially scheduled to begin in March 2016, but was pushed to August due to Ronan's commitments to a performance of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.[22] Filming began on August 30, 2016, in Sacramento, California. Other locations included Los Angeles and New York City.[23]

Ronan dyed her hair red for the role, and did not wear makeup to cover up her acne; she has said she saw the film as "a really good opportunity to let a teenager's face in a movie actually look like a teenager's face in real life".[24] Gerwig, using a technique she learned from the filmmaker Rebecca Miller, arrived an hour before everyone else in order to put the actors and crew at ease by knowing exactly how the day would run. She also banned smartphones on the set—a policy she borrowed from Noah Baumbach.[25]


In July 2017, A24 acquired worldwide distribution rights to the film.[26] The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2017,[27] and screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2017,[28] and the New York Film Festival on October 8, 2017.[29] Focus Features acquired international distribution rights to the film.[30] It was theatrically released in the United States on November 3, 2017,[31] and is due to be released in the UK on February 16, 2018.[32]


Box office

In its limited opening weekend, the film grossed $364,437 from four theaters, for a per-theater average of $91,109.[33] It had the second best theater average of 2017 and the highest-ever for a film in limited release directed by a woman.[34] The film expanded to 37 theaters in its second weekend, and grossed a three-day total of $1.2 million, finishing 10th at the box office.[35] In its third weekend, the film expanded to 238 theaters, and grossed a three-day total of $2.5 million, finishing 8th at the box office.[36]

The film had its official wide release on November 24, playing in 724 theaters and making $4 million over the weekend ($5.4 million over the five-day Thanksgiving frame), finishing 11th.[37] Expanding to 1,194 theaters the following week the film grossed $4.3 million, returning to 8th place.[38] Lady Bird is also A24's highest grossing film domestically, just ahead of Moonlight, which grossed $27,854,932.[39]

Critical response

Lady Bird received a standing ovation at its international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.[40] It received critical acclaim, with praise aimed at Ronan and Metcalf's performances, as well as Gerwig's screenplay and direction.[41][42] On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 99% based on 216 reviews, with an average rating of 8.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Lady Bird delivers fresh insights about the turmoil of adolescence and reveals debuting writer-director Greta Gerwig as a fully formed filmmaking talent."[43] On November 27, 2017, the film became the most-reviewed film ever to remain at 100% on the site with 164 positive reviews, beating previous record holder Toy Story 2, which has 163 positive reviews. It stayed at 100% until 196 registered reviews.[44] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 94 out of 100, based on 48 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."[45]

A.O. Scott of The New York Times labelled Lady Bird as "big-screen perfection", and found it to be "exceptionally well-written, full of wordplay and lively argument. Every line sounds like something a person might actually say, which means that the movie is also exceptionally well acted."[46] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said the film was "modestly scaled but creatively ambitious" and "succeeds on its own terms as a piquant audience pleaser", and gave praise to Ronan, whom he said "just seems to keep getting better all the time."[47] Peter Debruge of Variety praised Gerwig's direction and script, as well as Ronan's performance.[48] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said the film was "simply beautiful" and "warm and inspired", hailing the performances of Ronan and Metcalf as well as Gerwig's direction and screenplay.[49]

The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday described the film as a "triumph of style, sensibility and spirit" while similarly praising Ronan's performance and Gerwig's direction.[50] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone rated the film 3.5 out of four stars in which he deemed it as "Simply Irresistible" and complimented the film's plot and narrative while highlighting the performances of Ronan and Metcalf in which he stated as an "Oscar calling" and Gerwig's direction as "full-blown triumph". He also even declared it as one of year's best films.[51] Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film as "unique and original and fresh and wonderful" and "appealing" while lauding the performances (particularly Metcalf and Letts) in which he remarked that "There’s no level of acting on a higher plane than what [Metcalf] and [Letts] achieve in this film. This is what greatness looks like."[52] Alonso Duralde of TheWrap remarked that "Gerwig the actress skillfully pivots between the wacky and the poignant, so it's no surprise that Gerwig the auteur so delicately balances hilarity and heartbreak".[53]


Lady Bird garnered a variety of awards and nominations,[54] and was selected by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute as one of the top 10 films of the year.[55][56] It received eight nominations at the 23rd Critics' Choice Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Acting Ensemble.[57] At the 75th Golden Globe Awards, it was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actress – Musical or Comedy for Ronan, Best Supporting Actress for Metcalf, and Best Screenplay.[58] At the 24th Screen Actors Guild Awards, it was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for Ronan, Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for Metcalf, and Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.[59]


  1. ^ Contrary to popular assumption, the character's nickname does not derive from former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, according to an interview with Gerwig and host Terry Gross on National Public Radio. Gerwig went on to describe a Mother Goose nursery rhyme that includes "lady bird" in its lyric.[6]


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