Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Blake Jenner, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, Alexander Calvert, Meredith Monroe
Directed By: Kelly Fremon Craig
Plot: Nadine (Steinfeld) is going through a lot. She watched her father die in a car accident, she doesn’t relate to her mother (Sedgwick) or her brother (Jenner). Then her best friend (Richardson) starts dating her brother, and suddenly she’s alone. It’s tough being a teenager.
What Works: It’s a really well written film. The dialogue is great. The direction is great. The acting is great. Steinfeld does some really good work here. Now I understand her Golden Globe nomination, and why she was in the Oscar conversation. She’s so young, but she has such depth in her work. Her supporting cast is really good too. Blake Jenner is a standout here, mostly because his previous work has never been challenging. He really gets to show a lot of range, and I hope the casting directors take note. He could be a future star. Good looking + talent. Of course, Kyra Sedgwick and Woody Harrelson are terrific, because they always are. Harrelson was born to play this role. He’s so incredibly good as the teacher with wit and wisdom.
What Doesn’t Work: I really didn’t like the protagonist. This expertly crafted film circles a girl who is selfish, neurotic, and seems to not be able to understand anyone around her, or see anyone elses problems as being important except hers. Yes, she grows throughout the course of the film, but I spend most of the film not liking the main character… which can be problematic. I think Steinfeld did a good job, her character is written just a little too unlikable. I’d be concerned if people related to her too much. I think she could have been dialed back just a tad and the film would have worked better.
Final Word: Don’t write this off as a “teen film” because that’s dumbing this down. It’s much smarter than She’s All That. It has better acting. I think audiences of any age can watch this film and find something to like. Yes, the protagonist will make it a challenge, but the rest of the film is so rewarding. If anything, her bitchiness actually pushes the supporting characters even further and gives them more depth to explore.
Final Grade: A-