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Actor Greta Gerwig Stays Behind The Camera In Her Solo-Directing Debut 'Lady Bird'


Greta Gerwig is mostly known as an actor. But for her latest comedy, she stayed behind the camera. The movie is called "Lady Bird." She wrote and directed it. It makes sense since, as NPR critic Bob Mondello says, it is loosely based on her own life.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: High school senior Christine McPherson has all the usual insecurities of someone her age, but no one would ever accuse her of lacking confidence.


STEPHEN MCKINLEY HENDERSON: (As Father Leviatch) Lady Bird, is that your given name?

SAOIRSE RONAN: (As Christine McPherson) Yeah.

HENDERSON: (As Father Leviatch) Why is it in quotes?

RONAN: (As Christine McPherson) I gave it to myself. It's given to me by me.

MONDELLO: She throws herself into things - running for class president, auditioning for the school musical though she can't sing, chasing after a rich kid who is so not for her and bringing him home to meet her folks of whom she's kind of ashamed.


LUCAS HEDGES: (As Danny O'Neill) Lady bird always says that she lives on the wrong side of the tracks, but I always thought that that was, like, a metaphor. But there are actual train tracks.

MONDELLO: Lady Bird dreams big, bigger than her family can afford, bigger than her mother will sit still for on a college campus road trip that starts the film.


RONAN: (As Christine McPherson) I want to go where culture is like New York...

LAURIE METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) How in the world did I raise such a snob?

RONAN: (As Christine McPherson) ...Or at least Connecticut or New Hampshire where writers live in the woods.

METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) Well, you couldn't get into those schools anyway.

RONAN: (As Christine McPherson) Mom.

METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) You should just go to City College. You know, with your work ethic, just go to City College and then to jail and then back to City College. And then maybe you'd learn to pull yourself up and not expect everybody to do everything. (Screaming).

MONDELLO: The girl who throws herself into things has just thrown herself out of a moving car. Saoirse Ronan plays Lady Bird as if she'd been following writer-director Greta Gerwig around all her life - mannerisms and liberated worldview fully internalized. Her mom is played by Laurie Metcalf, and the film makes sure you see the family resemblance even when they're just shopping for a party dress.


METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) You're not going to a funeral.

RONAN: (As Christine McPherson) Well, I don't know. What says rich people Thanksgiving?

METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) I just think it's such a shame that you're spending your last Thanksgiving with a family you've never met instead of us. But I guess you want it that way. Are you tired?

RONAN: (As Christine McPherson) No.

METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) Because if you're tired, we can sit down.

RONAN: (As Christine McPherson) I'm not tired.

METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) Oh, OK. I just couldn't tell because you were dragging your feet.

RONAN: (As Christine McPherson) Why didn't you just say pick up your feet?

METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) I didn't know if you were tired.

RONAN: (As Christine McPherson) You were being passive-aggressive.

METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) No, I wasn't.

RONAN: (As Christine McPherson) You are so infuriating.

METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) Please stop yelling.

RONAN: (As Christine McPherson) I'm not yelling. Oh, it's perfect.

METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) Honey, do you love it?

MONDELLO: Turning on a dime emotionally - a fact of adolescent life seen here through a specifically female gaze. Gerwig crams this tale with pain, generosity, a delicately awkward grace and such abundant laughs that it may only register after the fact that "Lady Bird" is a striking piece of feminist filmmaking. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MONKEES SONG, "AS WE GO ALONG") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.