This is the second installment in a series of articles dedicated to championing films that have seen little love since their release. I would like to provide a little context before I talk about this film. This is obviously a great movie and I do believe everyone should watch it. Though I do feel that I watch this movie on a different level than other people will. Which might cause me to praise this film more than others have. Due to the fact that I can relate to some of the emotional woes of the main character. When I was sixteen my father passed away. A little over a year later my mother abandoned me and my siblings because she simply didn’t want to take care of children anymore. In the time before she left she was growing distant and emotionally self-centered. Similar to the mother in this film. Except Kyra Sedgwick isn’t as much of an absentee mother as my mom had become and does have a positive emotional arc by the end of the movie. Anywho, on with the review.
Tale of two Hailey’s
The number one reason to watch this film is the amazing performance of the never disappointing Hailee Steinfeld. The film world truly underestimates her talent as a comedian. I have this film on in the background as a refresher while I’m writing this and I constantly keep stopping what I’m doing due to the fact that I have to belly laugh every few minutes at the littlest things that she does on screen. She makes being socially awkward look like a complete blast. I know for a fact that it isn’t. Yet she does so much with it that it never feels like a one-note performance. She is constantly finding new alleyways and avenues to be the most awkward person in the room and make it hilarious. She deserved the Golden Globe nomination she received for this film and much more beyond that. This is just me scratching the surface by the way. There are so many wonderful levels to both her character and her performance that you can’t appreciate without watching the film for yourself.
Haley Lu Richardson might honestly be one of the most if not the most underrated young actress working today. This film introduced me to her and is a great example of what makes her a phenomenal actress. The parts that she takes are never flashy melodramatic roles where she can chew up the scenery. There is always such a wonderful subtlety to her performances that I feel like a lot of people don’t see. There consistently seems to be an underlying sense of sincerity to every line of dialogue that she delivers. It’s almost as if she truly believes each one of the words that she speaks. It’s as if she is not just playing a character, but embodying them for a short period of time. This is even more obvious in the film Columbus. Which I will be speaking about in a future article.
A film with Heart
This is a film that mixes comedy and drama very well. It can make you belly laugh even through multiple viewings. Much of this comes from the great comedic performances of Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson. This film is written and directed so well that they never feel like one-dimensional punchline delivering machines. This is a film that takes these funny characters and realistically shows the tragic side to these people without it feeling out of place or melodramatic. Every character is complex and has depth to them. Even the main character’s jock older brother that does seem one-dimensional at first but gets fleshed out by the third act. The same can be said for the teacher played by Woody Harrelson. He seems like the old curmudgeon, yet his home life sees him as the complete opposite. He is willing to go above and beyond for the people in his life that he cares about even when that person is a student of his that constantly tests his patience.
I’ve never been a seventeen-year-old white girl in high school and I never will be. I’m a Latino male in my mid-twenties, yet I was able to relate to the main character in this film more than I have in any film that I’ve seen in recent years. Not just because of the reasons I listed in the intro. I was just as bitter and angry at everything in high school as she was in this film. I even called my self an “old soul” as she does in one scene. Spouting a series of never-ending complaints about how I couldn’t relate to people my own age. Never knowing how pretentious I sounded or the fact that I was far from the first person that had ever made this sentiment. I just wish that I was as funny as her in high school or dressed as well. I had no fashion sense back then. Compliments to the costume designer for this film. As serval characters mention, she has cool shoes.
If you’ve read this far into the article, then I hope you do intend to watch this film. If you want to watch a funny, relatable, teen film with a lot of heart, then I think this would be wise to make this a double feature with Love, Simon. Two films that wisely show the complexities of being a teenager in high school. Showing that we all have problems, yet our individual problems can so easily make us feel alone in the world. Kelly Fremon Craig highlights these points well. I wish her a long and healthy career as a writer and director.