Normally films like this put me on edge.
High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) when her best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her older brother (Blake Jenner).
I didn’t think I’d enjoy this at all.
The endless praise and surprisingly high ratings piqued my curiousity. When I saw Miss Steinfeld in True Grit, I thought to myself, “She is going to be one to watch for the future” BUT the last few films I’ve seen her in, I’ve been disappointed. Playing nothing more than a neurotic, fast talking, annoying teenage daughter.
She really grated against me in Pitch Perfect 2.
Within the first ten minutes of Nadine’s verbal diarrhea, I thought I might have to switch this off. Her melodramatic cries for attention had me wincing. That was until she shared her feelings with a seemingly uncaring teacher (Woody Harrelson).
What ensued after was a pleasantly entertaining coming-of-age family drama that hit home.
The film flicked back and forth as we got a glimpse into Nadine’s past right up to the . . . edge of 17. The melancholy and nostalgia ripe for the picking as she made her first friend at pre-school and bumped heads with her erratic mother (Kyra Sedgwick).
Her dad being the wedge between them. An endearing relationship that was cut short (rather unexpectedly).
It was easygoing and funny enough as Nadine dealt with growing up, high school crushes, her sibling rivalry with her over achieving brother Darian (Nope, not a typo. Actual name) and those . . . embarrassing haircuts. Rocking a do that bared striking similarities to Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite.
However, being a teen drama, it wasn’t long before Nadine’s relatively tranquil and normal life came crashing down after walking in on her BFF in bed with Darian.
Throwing her into a helter skelter of emotions and self-reflection as she threatens to lose her only real friend and cause a rift in the family.
After commending Harrelson’s performance in Three Billboards last month, I was impressed to see that the comedy actor wasn’t a one trick pony (I know! True Detective, yeah yeah yeah). He really has matured as an actor and delivered a sterling turn as the cynical Mr Bruner.
I loved the dynamic between Nadine and her long suffering tutor. The tit for tat banter really made the film. A constant thorn in the miserable mentor’s side. BUT beneath that gloomy exterior, lied a man with a good heart. Desperate to see this neurotic teenager find her way and . . . leave him alone for a god damn second.
Hayden Szeto was brilliant as Erwin. The geeky film nerd desperate to win Nadine’s love and affection. The awkward cringe inducing first date, the idle chit chat, we’ve all been there. I felt for the poor chap as he got “friend zoned” again and again.
What I loved most about this film was how writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig tackled loneliness and isolation among the characters.
Nadine’s depression and frustrations reaching breaking point as she tries to break up the people who are desperately trying to help her. The stubbornness and refusal to see other people’s problems over her own as she acted out.
I was a little embarrassed to admit that I could relate to the headstrong 17 year old girl. I was dropped by my best friend in sixth form out of the blue which knocked my confidence for six and forced me to re-evaluate myself.
I know the situation was reversed for Nadine BUT the anguish and awkward encounters as she tried to branch out struck a chord for me. Brilliantly captured and acted perfectly by Steinfeld.
I wasn’t sure on what direction the film would take as it reached it’s emotional finale. I won’t spoil it. BUT worth a watch.
A pleasant surprise. Not without its imperfections. It was still a little cheesy and the pace did test in places BUT hype definitely helped this time around.
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