The Edge of Seventeen
Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig makes an impressive debut with this darkly funny take on the life of a modern day high school outcast. Hailee Steinfeld gives her best performance since True Grit as Nadine, a highly intelligent teen going through an awkward stage when her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her brother (Blake Jenner). Nadine is a practitioner of brutal honesty, which basically gets her ostracized at school and in trouble with her family. The only one who really stops to listen is her teacher (a hilarious Woody Harrelson) who actually has no choice given his profession. Craig’s screenplay is first rate, and her directing results in some great performances. Steinfeld is good enough here to be considered for her second Oscar nomination, while Jenner (who starred in this year’s Everybody Wants Some!!) is equally good. This one draws comparison to the best of John Hughes, and I would call the movie a good companion piece to The Breakfast Club. It’s good to see Steinfeld getting a role she very much deserves, and exciting to see a new voice like Craig’s on the scene. Kyra Sedgwick is also very good in a supporting role as Nadine’s mother, while Hayden Szeto does excellent work as a high school boy who hasn’t mastered the art of properly asking somebody out. (His performance is all the more impressive because he’s over 30 playing 18.) This is one of the better family dramas of recent years, on top of being a solid, funny comedy.
4 ArrivalDirector Denis Villeneuve has made one of the year’s best science fiction films. Amy Adams stars as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics teacher crippled by visions of a daughter who died of a rare illness. She lives a life of seclusion, where the only thing she really does is teach her class and mope around her lakefront home. (Man, that must be one abnormally high paying teacher’s gig.) During class, a bunch of phones go off, a student instructs her to turn on the TV, and, bam, that’s how she discovers the planet seems to be getting a visit from an alien force. Strange giant pods have parked themselves all over the planet, and nobody knows their intent. A solemn military man (Forest Whitaker) shows up in Louise’s office and informs her the world needs her. She has a sense of purpose again. It isn’t long before she’s inside an alien ship trying to talk to the “Heptapods,” large elephant looking aliens with seven legs. She’s joined by a science officer played by a surprisingly low-key Jeremy Renner. The movie is drawing comparisons to Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s a very different type of film from that one. If you’re looking for some sort of action pic, you will not find that here. This is a sci-fi movie that gives itself time to breathe, and while it does have a few action scenes, for the most part, it’s intellectual fare. Next up for Villeneuve is Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to the Ridley Scott classic and another sci-fi effort. Based on his work with Arrival, I have to say that the Blade Runner sequel stands as one of my most anticipated movies.