I love a truly great coming-of-age film, and Lady Birdopens a new window, Greta Gerwig's spectacular directorial debut, sets a new high-water mark for the genre. While the film abounds with what you'd expect from a story about adolescence--school dances, thwarted attempts at romance, social rivalries, clashes with parents--the material is handled in a way that feels fresh and honest thanks to the pitch-perfect script and outstanding performances. If you're among the film's many rabid fans, check out a few of my other favorite coming-of-age movies that make me laugh, cry, and want to call my mother!
Rachel Flax is an unconventional single mother in 1960s New England. She's sexy, gregarious, only knows how to make hors d'ouevres, and is prone to skipping town with her two daughters whenever things go amiss with the current man in her life. Naturally, she is played by none other than Cher, who basically just plays herself in the role! But trust me, it works. Especially when she clashes with her religious eldest daughter, played with flawless teenage petulance by Winona Ryder. My mom and I still quote this movie to this day!
Bande de filles (streaming)
When a tumultuous home life causes her grades to suffer and ultimately forces her out of school, young Marieme falls in with a trio of similarly unmoored, spirited teenage girls in her neighborhood. Set in the low-income suburbs of Paris rarely seen in French cinema, Girlhood dispels stereotypes with tremendous sympathy while perfectly capturing the excitement of forging new bonds, finding yourself, and building your own family.
It's the 1970s in San Francisco, and 15-year-old Minnie Goetze is in the throes of her first sexual relationship...with her mother's boyfriend. With such a shocking and troubling premise, this movie could have gone wrong in a lot of ways. But first-time director Marielle Heller handles this challenging story with sensitivity and confidence, pulling off the seemingly impossible: she makes this story and its characters poignant and relatable. Plus, you really can't go wrong with Kristen Wiig as a libertine hippie mom!
The Edge of Seventeen (DVD)
Can we just make Hailee Steinfeldopens a new window a huge star already? In her role as Nadine, an abrasive 16-year-old outcast whose only friend in the world has just started dating Nadine's popular older brother, Steinfeld is a marvel. She takes a self-centered, infuriating, often cruel teenage girl, and somehow makes us understand and even love her. Watching her made me simultaneously nostalgic for the thrill and intensity of being a teenager, and also tremendously relieved that my high school years are long over.
In this vibrant, lively, and touching film from Spike Lee, we experience one summer in early 1970s Brooklyn through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl named Troy Carmichael. Written by Spike Lee and two of his siblings, the story of the Carmichael family unfolds in a way that deftly combines the dream-like quality of our best childhood memories with the stark, painful realities of growing up.