We have been to Sacramento. And like the Joan Didion quote that kicks off filmmaker Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird, we agree that Christmas there would surely be horrible. But then again we wonder, as does the film: Why would we think we're too good for such a place? What are we rushing toward—or from? And when did we start to believe that the next step, next place, next milestone was the last piece of a puzzle that could finally make us happy? And do we even know how to be anymore?

We follow Christine (or Lady Bird, depending on whom you ask—Saoirse Ronan of The Grand Budapest Hotel) in her final year at a Catholic girl's high school in the Northern California town circa 2002. It's one of many facets shared with scriptwriter Gerwig, who also hails from Sacramento and attended Catholic school.

Lady Bird is fairly mundane as characters go; a misfit weirdo longing for more than her hometown for typical teenaged reasons, but never quite anything enough to belong to any of the laughably perfect subcultures: closeted theater kids and super-serious rock band dorks; queen-bee mean girls in short skirts, and those best friends we hurt and left behind for reasons we still don't fully comprehend. In the end, the moral might be about being true to oneself, sure—but it's also important to find comfort where one can.

Ronan is utterly brilliant as an average teen convinced she's anything but; ditto for her mother Marion, played so flawlessly by Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne) that we can't help but think of our own collective mothers and their innate ability to transcend passive aggression into an art form. We believe Ronan and Metcalf are related in ways that most films never begin to approach—a matter of onscreen chemistry, but also a testament to the ability of each actress and Gerwig's spot-on script.

Lady Bird could have been ripped from any of our lives and will no doubt feel painfully familiar to some, but it also comes with catharsis and gently suggested lessons rather than underestimation of its audience. A simple story told well shouldn't be so surprisingly refreshing and moving, and yet here we are. Brava.

10
+Fantastic performances from all, brilliant script
-We've got nothing

Lady Bird
Directed by Gerwig
With Ronan and Metcalf
R, Center for Contemporary Arts, 93 min.