• by Wes Singleton

Lady Bird, B+

Rated R, 93 minutes

The tender, bittersweet and superbly acted new coming-of-age dramedy "Lady Bird" is one of the year's best films. Directed and written by "Frances Ha" and "Mistress America" star Greta Gerwig, it's a familiar yet touching look at the difficulties of growing up.

Set in Sacramento over the 2002-03 school year, the story focuses on a high school senior, Christine McPherson (the excellent Saoirse Ronan) - who prefers to go by the name "Lady Bird" - and her turbulent relationship with her overbearing mother (Emmy and Tony-winner Laurie Metcalf, also superb) and other people in her life.

Gerwig's insightful, semi-autobiographical and honest "Lady Bird" provides a fresh voice into adolescence. Gerwig, who's mostly been in front of the camera here, provides assured direction in her first film directing as a solo effort. It's aided by strong performances, which is led by the wonderful Ronan in another great performance, here as the strong-willed, incredibly smart Lady Bird, who often goes toe-to-toe with her equally opinionated, overbearing mother, played with affection and wit by Metcalf.

Also contributing strong turns is "The Lovers'" Tracy Letts as Lady Bird's compassionate Dad, Beanie Feldstein ("Neighbors 2") as her long-suffering friend Julie, Oscar-nominee Lucas Hedges as a conflicted friend, and Timothee Chalamet (receiving acclaim for the upcoming "Call Me By Your Name").

Like any curious, outspoken teen, Lady Bird has her issues at school (she hates math and enjoys drama), with her family (the opening scene with Ronan and Metcalf is a treat), and of course, with boys too, with Hedges and Chalamet being the object of her affections. None of it is exactly new, but Ronan's sly turn and Gerwig's humorous script make it a treat to watch.

We all have those Lady Birds in our lives: those who may exasperate you in their search for greatness. The film "Lady Bird" soars, providing a funny, bittersweet and original look into the aches and pains of growing up. Expect plenty of accolades for Gerwig, Ronan and Metcalf.

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