Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Blake Jenner, Haley Lu Richardson, Kyra Sedgwick, Nesta Cooper, Woody Harrelson (Rated M – 104 min).
Although it may cover familiar ground, this wonderful edition to the teens in high school coming-of-age genre harks back to the retro golden years of Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful or 16 Candles from best in the business, the late, great John Hughes.
Nominated for an Oscar in the remake of iconic western True Grit (2010), holding her own opposite silver screen legend Jeff Bridges, young Hailee Steinfeld continues to act beyond her years glowing in the awkward role of Nadine who is unbearable to the point of exhaustion for all those around her.
Her world is turned upside down when best friend Krista drops mates for dates by suddenly seeing her big brother Darian on a more than casual basis, the kind of nightmare scenario not taken well by the sensitive teen.
Radiantly troubled, Nadine is a creature of intense magnetism who surveys the world with an open mind but stops short of suffering fools, especially within her own bubble.
Often seeking refuge with one of her teachers Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson), her broad thoughts are all there for him to inappropriately take in then confer the best he possibly can. However she is, as he tells her, his favourite student.
Audacious, hilarious and brutally honest, these unforgettable scenes between Steinfeld and Harrelson are a generational acting masterclass. They share thoughts in a series of monologues of controlled softness.
Flexing her eyebrows at every turn, being an outcast in some ways does not hinder the journey of Nadine filtering the changes in her life. She is bold, smart with a heart of gold. Gazing at her bright fashion sense is also part of the fun, an array of wedged colourful sneakers are a highlight often helping explain her personality at times.
Soon to be seen in upcoming kidnapping chiller Split, Haley Lu Richardson is great as former best friend Krista. She brings presence to the role counter balancing Nadine’s unpredictable antics. Kyra Sedgwick plays the suffering mum in the middle of a love-hate relationship with her daughter that escalates into hilarity for the viewer.
Not just for a teenage demographic, all ages will enjoy this wonderful film combining the dramatic elements with comedy fluff but never forgetting the moral to the story of growing up an individual. A breath of fresh air in a jam-packed holiday movie schedule.
Shane A. Bassett