Out of nowhere comes this movie to save 2016. This is a true charmer, an exploration of well-trodden film territory that still manages to feel more genuine than most. It’s funny, endearing, and touching without overdoing anything, and any sappier moments it features are most definitely earned. It’s one of the big surprises of the year in film, and I hope it gets the attention it deserves over the next few months.
A lot of the film’s merit lies on the shoulders of Hailee Steinfeld, who turns in a performance that is stunning in its normalcy and relatability. You believe that this is just a regular 17-year old girl struggling with her own problems in her own ways. You believe that the film understands her flaws and the nasty side that can be provoked in her. You believe that the film cares about her and wants to tell a human story. Steinfeld is simply incredible, and every emotion her character feels is palpable without feeling manufactured. She also has some excellent comedic timing.
So does Woody Harrelson, who plays her witty but compassionate teacher. It’s a perfect role for him, and the film mines some great material out of the dynamic between the two of them. Like with everything else in this story, it feels believable and honest, and there are no overly cute tricks pulled to make the film seem special in some way. All we have is a story told in a simple, fun, and grounded manner. It’s storytelling done right.
Photo credit: The Edge of Seventeen, STX Entertainment