2 posts categorized "Coming-of-Age"

December 07, 2017


LadybirdposterAlthough dramatically flat, Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age directorial debut covers its Mumblecore tracks with jabs of humor and a breeze of earthy authenticity.

Set in Sacramento, California (Gerwig’s hometown), the story focuses on the fraught relationship between Lady Bird (a.k.a. Christine — played by Saoirse Ronan) and her overworked mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf), whose emotions run hot or cold. Marion’s Scorpio tendencies are exacerbated by the family’s unemployed father Larry (wonderfully played by Tracy Letts in a thankless role).

The armpit city of Sacramento will forever be indebted to Greta Gerwig for making it seem like a much better place than it is to live.  


It’s Lady Bird’s senior year at a private Catholic girls’ high school from which our self-named heroine attempts to assert as much independence as her small town surroundings will allow, which is to say more than any kid living in 2017 should expect.

Participating in the school play sets up a romantic endeavor with Lucas Hedges’s Danny, a boy with a secret. Talk about being mad about the wrong boy, Lady Bird is no judge of character or of sexual affiliation.

Lady bird

Other social opportunities arrive as predictable let-downs for our girl-with-a-problem. Even losing her virginity occurs with a whimper. Lady Bird (“Amelie” reference — check) wants/needs to get as far away from her mother, and Sacramento, as possible. You can’t blame her one bit.

But to be clear, "Lady Bird" is far from a perfect film, it's just not the mumblecore disaster you'd expect from Greta Gerwig — one of the mumblecore movement's prime progenitors. There are dozens of coming-of-age films that far outweigh this lightweight contender. Think "Kes" or "Murmur of the Heart." Greta Gerwig has a long way to go as a filmmaker before she can pretend to approach a Ken Loach or a Louis Malle, much less Céline Sciamma's tour de force "Girlhood" from 2015.


If Lady Bird were true to her character, she'd never speak to her mother again after asking mom for the "number" that represents the amount of money she spent raising her so that she (Lady Bird) can pay her back and have nothing to do with her ever again. Lady Bird's mom earned that amount of disgust from her daughter; she deserved it. Lady Bird doesn't have the courage of her convictions after all. If ever there was a signature mumblecore trait, this is it. 

Rated R. 94 mins. (C+) (Three stars — out of five / no halves)

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September 17, 2014


LincompresaAsia Argento’s third film as director finds her excavating the messy ground of a coming-of-age story about Aria, a 9-year-old Italian girl. Giulia Salerno’s winning portrayal of Aria, a young girl torn between separated wealthy and semi-famous parents (dad is a film actor and mom is a concert pianist), is the film’s strongest ingredient. But however compelling Salerno’s performance, it only goes so far toward compensating for an episodic script without a significant arc.

Aria flits between stay-overs with her narcissistic father (Gabriel Garko) and romantically immature mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Her father’s hot and cold temperament causes him to reject Aria just as quickly as he extends affection. Mom’s reliably unreliable suitors aren’t the kind of men you’d leave your child alone with.


From a visual perspective, production designer Eugenia F. di Napoli uses bold primary colors reminiscent of the colorful look of Argento’s much-loved father Dario Argento’s giallo horror films. The effect frequently overpowers the dramatic nature of the story.

In its off-putting climax, co-screenwriter Barbara Alberti reneges on the narrative’s playful tone with a character-breaking crisis decision that leaves the audience with a pit in its stomach, and no hope for Aria’s limited future.
“Misunderstood” is a movie that fails to shine any ostensibly promised light on the plight of a little girl who comes to take her problems far too seriously for her age.


Not Rated. 103 mins. (C-) (Two Stars - out of five/no halves)

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