Ger­wig flies high with her first film

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT -

Lady Bird

(out of 4) Star­ring Saoirse Ronan, Lau­rie Met­calf, Tracy Letts, Lu­cas Hedges, Ti­mothée Cha­la­met, Lois Smith and Beanie Feld­stein. Writ­ten and di­rected by Greta Ger­wig. Opens Fri­day at the Var­sity. 94 min­utes. 14A Any num­ber of com­ing-of-age films are brought to mind by ac­tor Greta Ger­wig’s charm­ing de­but as solo writer/di­rec­tor.

But the de­light­ful and in­sight­ful Lady Bird achieves flight in its own unique way.

Peo­ple doubted Ger­wig’s film­mak­ing am­bi­tions, since she’s best known as the love­ably daffy star of such mod­ern amuse­ments as Frances Ha and Mistress Amer­ica. She went ahead any­way and made one of the fun­ni­est and most heart­felt movies of 2017, a film that gets in­side the out­sider feel­ing of grow­ing up.

It’s no ac­ci­dent that Saoirse Ronan’s ti­tle rebel in Lady Bird, a Ger­wig-in­spired char­ac­ter, chooses Stephen Sond­heim’s “Ev­ery­body Says Don’t” as her cheeky au­di­tion for a high school mu­si­cal.

Chris­tine “Lady Bird” McPherson feels un­der siege, not just from her dyed red hair, her stub­born ado­les­cent acne and her mis­for­tune of liv­ing with her cash-strapped fam­ily in Sacra­mento, Calif., in 2002.

Her fraz­zled mom (Lau­rie Met­calf ), an­noy­ing older brother (Jor­dan Ro­drigues) and in­quir­ing school prin­ci­pal (Lois Smith) are all on her case. Only her dad (Tracy Letts) seems to be on Lady Bird’s side — and he’s fight­ing a bad case of de­pres­sion, hum­bled by un­em­ploy­ment and em­bar­rassed by his per­ceived fail­ings as a bread­win­ner. Mom has to work dou­ble shifts as a psych ward nurse.

Lady Bird also has the pesky prob­lems of an af­ford­able col­lege to choose and vir­gin­ity she’s ea­ger to lose, the lat­ter with the as­sis­tance of her shy boyfriend Danny (Lu­cas Hedges) — or is she re­ally more in­ter­ested in the in­scrutable slacker Kyle (Ti­mothée Cha­la­met)?

Ronan is a riot as the wil­ful Lady Bird, a kid try­ing hard to turn “nope” into hope. She’s sure to court Best Ac­tress con­sid­er­a­tion, one of many po­ten­tial ku­dos for this 2017 high­light.

Pic­ture, di­rect­ing and screen­writ­ing hon­ours beckon for Ger­wig and pos­si­bly sup­port­ing-ac­tress nom­i­na­tions for Met­calf and Smith, the two mother fig­ures in Lady Bird’s life, who al­ways mean well even if they don’t al­ways de­liver on it.

There’s much hid­den love, too, in how Ger­wig’s keen eye man­ages to make her home­town look good, better than Lady Bird would ever ad­mit. Peter How­ell Al­most all of us know some­thing about Jane Goodall and her pi­o­neer­ing work study­ing chim­panzees in the wild.

Brett Mor­gen’s doc­u­men­tary adds to that knowl­edge in ways that make her life and legacy even more ex­tra­or­di­nary and in­spir­ing.

It helps im­mea­sur­ably that Mor­gen has ac­cess to more than 100 hours of “re­dis­cov­ered” footage shot by Hugo van Law­ick, a na­ture pho­tog­ra­pher who chron­i­cled her ad­ven­tures.

Van Law­ick, who later be­came Goodall’s hus­band, was one of the top in his craft in the world and his work is sub­lime.

Mor­gen sets the story up nicely with some tex­tual pre­am­ble, in­clud­ing the fact that Goodall, at the age of 26 and with no univer­sity de­gree or train­ing, came to Gombe in the early 1960s at the be­hest of leg­endary an­thro­pol­o­gist Louis Leakey.

There’s also a re­cent in­ter­view with Goodall that knits to­gether the threads of her event­ful life and what a rich life it has been, filled with highs and lows, tragedy and tri­umph.

Goodall has left her mark on the world, and this doc­u­men­tary en­gag­ingly cel­e­brates that legacy. Bruce DeMara Se­rial killer and can­ni­bal Jef­frey Dahmer was such a no­to­ri­ous mon­ster, it seems pre­pos­ter­ous and even of­fen­sive to imag­ine a film de­pict­ing his early days as a teen mis­fit.

He vi­o­lated, killed and con­sumed 17 men over a 13-year killing spree, which ended in 1991 with his ar­rest and sub­se­quent con­vic­tion and death in prison at the hands of an­other in­mate. Why should we feel sorry for him?

The strength of writer/di­rec­tor Marc Mey­ers’ film, which stars former Dis­ney star Ross Lynch as the creep­ily va­cant killer-to-be, is that it seeks not to ex­cuse Dahmer but rather to il­lu­mi­nate his so­ciopa­thy.

Here we see a lonely kid, later di­ag­nosed with mul­ti­ple psy­chi­atric dis­or­ders, grow­ing up in a bro­ken home with an al­co­holic and bipo­lar mother (Anne Heche) and a con­cerned but dis­tant fa­ther (Dal­las Roberts).

Dahmer tries to find friend­ship at school by be­ing the “cham­pion spazz” who fakes seizures for at­ten­tion. All he finds is more lone­li­ness and, ul­ti­mately, a life sicker than any hor­ror writer could ever imag­ine. PH Ex­treme cold meets the deep freeze of bu­reau­cracy and cross-cul­tural hos­til­i­ties as a rookie FBI agent (El­iz­a­beth Olsen) and a veteran hunter (Jeremy Ren­ner) in­ves­ti­gate a teen girl’s mur­der on a re­mote Wyoming In­dian reser­va­tion.

Si­cario screen­writer Sheri­dan, also the pen be­hind Os­car-nom­i­nated Hell or High Wa­ter, makes his aus­pi­cious di­rec­to­rial de­but in a drama where the chill of en­vi­ron­men­tal and at­ti­tu­di­nal cir­cum­stances cuts to the bone.

Olsen and Ren­ner make a great pair — she’s a tal­ented but citi­fied FBI agent from Las Ve­gas, he’s a dam­aged veteran wood­lands tracker — but the best scene be­longs to Gra­ham Greene, as Indige­nous law­man Ben.

“This isn’t the land of backup,” Ben tells Olsen. “This is the land of ‘You’re on your own.’ ”

Wind River is a flinty saga in which a strong fe­male char­ac­ter en­ters a treach­er­ous do­main where men out­num­ber women and think they rule the roost.

Ex­tras in­clude deleted scene and a mak­ing-of video gallery. PH If the James Bond fran­chise peo­ple ever get cre­ative and cast a fe­male 007, Char­l­ize Theron will have to be high on their list of pos­si­ble can­di­dates.

Atomic Blonde, her spy-ver­sus-spy thriller, will be her au­di­tion tape, much as the un­even Layer Cake was for Daniel Craig, the cur­rent 007. This is both a good and bad thing.

Set in the Ber­lin of1989, in the tense days and hours be­fore the Wall’s rup­ture, Atomic Blonde is less of a co­her­ent movie ex­pe­ri­ence and more of a show reel of Theron’s awe­some abil­i­ties as an ac­tion star — which is not a sur­prise, given her badass turns in Mad Max: Fury Road and this past sum­mer’s The Fate of the Fu­ri­ous.

Theron’s lat­est ac­tioner takes her fu­ri­ous skills to the mad­der max, in her role of MI6 su­per spy Lorraine Broughton. She’s tasked with re­triev­ing a miss­ing MacGuf­fin that could “ex­tend the Cold War an­other 40 years.” This is in­deed a hands-on as­sign­ment, as Broughton demon­strates to any man or woman fool­ish enough to try to stop her.

Ex­tras in­clude deleted/ex­tended scenes and mak­ing-of fea­turettes. PH

MERIE WAL­LACE/A24 VIA THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ac­tress Saoirse Ronan is a riot as a wil­ful teen in Lady Bird, a film about a young woman try­ing to hard to turn “nope” into hope, Peter How­ell writes.

My Friend Dahmer

(out of 4) Star­ring Ross Lynch, Anne Heche, Dal­las Roberts and Vin­cent Kartheiser. Writ­ten and di­rected by Marc Mey­ers. Opens Fri­day at Sco­tia­bank Theatre. 107 min­utes. 14A

Jane

(out of 4) Doc­u­men­tary on cel­e­brated simian re­searcher Jane Goodall, writ­ten and di­rected by Brett Mor­gen. Opens Fri­day at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cin­ema. 90 min­utes. STC

Atomic Blonde (DVD)

(out of 4) Star­ring Char­l­ize Theron, James McAvoy, Ed­die Marsan, Sofia Boutella, John Good­man, Toby Jones and Til Sch­weiger. Di­rected by David Leitch. Out Nov. 14 on DVD. 115 min­utes. 18A

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