STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
"Only The Brave" opens today. It dramatizes the story of elite firefighters, the Granite Mountain Hotshots. They were killed in an Arizona fire.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ONLY THE BRAVE")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) If the fire gets past our line, it goes to our town.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) No matter what you hear...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) We've got several aircraft coming to you.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) ...No matter what's going on...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Tell me when you hear the aircraft, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) ...Look out for each other 'cause we're a family.
INSKEEP: Josh Brolin, Jennifer Connelly, Jeff Bridges, Miles Teller all star in a timely film which we will discuss with Claudia Puig, president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and a regular guest here. Hi, Claudia.
CLAUDIA PUIG: Hi.
INSKEEP: True story - I guess we know the ending. And then the question is how it is dramatized. How'd they do?
PUIG: No one could have known that the opening of this film would coincide with some of the most destructive wildfires in California history. So it's all the more powerful because we know that this is currently happening. The performances are really good. And there's - the director had a background in architecture. And you can kind of see it in the way he designs his shots. There's some really, really vivid shots. You can feel the heat. You can almost smell the smoke.
INSKEEP: I suppose with a movie like this, the landscape is almost a character in and of itself.
PUIG: The landscape is definitely a character. The wilderness comes alive. And in the opening shot, there is a flaming bear. And it's - not only just looks like it's burning, but it looks as if it was created from fire. And it lunges at the camera. Josh Brolin describes it as the most beautiful and terrible thing I've ever seen.
INSKEEP: You know, when I think about the names that we threw out there - Josh Brolin or Jeff Bridges - people who play really distinctive characters, sometimes, down on their luck or blue-collar kind of characters.
PUIG: Yeah. These are people that have real problems. Josh Brolin is having some marital problems with his wife, Jennifer Connelly. And they feel real. They're complicated. Miles Teller plays a guy who has drug problems. These are ordinary people who are also amazing heroes. And the movie honors their sacrifice, but it doesn't render them saintly.
INSKEEP: So the other film coming out that you really loved is called "Lady Bird." And we have a daughter and a mother here, as I understand. And in the scene we're about to hear, they're driving together in a car. They're having a conversation. And, well, the conversation is not going well.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LADY BIRD")
SAOIRSE RONAN: (As Lady Bird McPherson) I hate California. I want to go to the East Coast. I want to go culture is, like New York...
LAURIE METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) How in the world did I raise such a snob?
RONAN: (As Lady Bird McPherson) ...Or at least Connecticut or New Hampshire, where writers live in the woods.
METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) You wouldn't get into those schools anyway. You know, with your work ethic, just go to city college and then to jail and then back to city college. And then maybe you'd learn to pull yourself up and not expect everybody to do every - (yelling).
INSKEEP: I'm sorry to laugh because that's the moment when the daughter just jumps out of the moving car.
INSKEEP: Can't take it anymore.
PUIG: Uh-huh (laughter). You know, that's not what you expected to see happen. This is such - you know, this is the exact opposite of "Only The Brave." It's a very female movie. And it's - you rarely see coming-of-age movies that are about women. You see them a lot more about young men. But it's really refreshing to see a film that's about a young woman and largely about her relationship with her mother. This is a film that manages to be funny and also moving and emotional. It does it all with vibrance and grace. And it's a first-time filmmaker, a wonderful actress named Greta Gerwig who wrote and directed it. And it's incredibly impressive. And she's a very gifted storyteller.
INSKEEP: We should mention Laurie Metcalf is the mother here.
PUIG: Yes. She's fantastic. It's a really great ensemble cast.
INSKEEP: And Saoirse Ronan is the young woman who is coming of age, as you said.
PUIG: Saoirse Ronan was in "Brooklyn." She was also in "Grand Budapest Hotel." She got her start in "Atonement." But I think this might be her best performance. She plays this angst-riddled teen who goes to this very restrictive Catholic high school and, you know, bickers with her parents, has her first heartbreak. And it's a real feminine ode to growing up.
INSKEEP: Claudia Puig, always a pleasure talking with you.
PUIG: My pleasure.
INSKEEP: She's the president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.