If I were to throw around words like “indie”, “coming of age” and “Greta Gerwig”, you’d probably tell me to stop calling, how did you get this number. But this coming-of-age indie from writer-director Greta Gerwig is the best beetle-themed movie since Herbie Goes Bananas.
Quirky comedy-dramas about self-absorbed people are a tricky proposition, usually resulting in the kind of teeth-grinding that makes you want to send your dentist bill to everyone involved in making Frances Ha. But in her first solo outing as director, Gerwig nails that impossible tone with a film that’s acerbic and sweet at the same time, like eating a handful of fizzy worms and stopping just as you start to feel sick. The movie ends just as that sensation starts to set in, demonstrating the impeccable timing on display throughout the film, and feeling earned because the characters are so likeable and rounded.
Saoirse Ronan plays the eponymous 17-year-old with the kind of effortless charm she showed in Brooklyn, another warm coming-of-age picture about home and family. Laurie Metcalf is perfectly cast as her mother, providing a strong family resemblance, with Bug–writer Tracy Letts supplying a nice insect connection as her father. Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein and Call Me By Your Name‘s Timothée Chalamet round out the cast of hilariously funny and brilliantly observed characters.
Gerwig draws from her own childhood, a bit of John Hughes and a little Rushmore, but with a welcome female perspective that’s seldom spotted. The result is like an indie Mean Girls, particularly in the affably rebellious scenes at Lady Bird’s Catholic high school, including student theatre sequences that put the A in aphid. This is smart, funny cinema with a particularly nice line in withering expressions. Believe the buzz around Lady Bird, because this bug is infectious.