Review: “The Edge of Seventeen”

Screen-Shot-2016-09-10-at-3.11.39-PM-980x539You’ll see yourself in The Edge of Seventeen.

In her directorial debut, Kelly Fremon Craig pays homage to the John Hughes teen comedies of the 1980s, as charmingly though not in the ironic way Easy A, the modern reimagining of The Scarlet Letter, did in 2010.

Rather than another adolescent flick about getting pregnant, laid, or shit-faced (maybe all three), going to prom, or chasing a crush, The Edge of Seventeen is about what it’s like just to be yourself. It’s maybe the most sincere teen comedy of the past 30 years.

You’ll be smitten by Hailee Steinfeld, playing Nadine whose tortured “Are you even up there (God)?” life as a loner starts to completely unravel when her best friend starts dating her older brother. She starts to find clarity from an unlikely friendship with her history teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) — Steinfeld and Harrelson’s comedic chemistry is one of the film’s many delights — and a mild-mannered boy (Hayden Szeto) in her class named Erwin.

I’m going on 27 years old, so the best the film could do for me was take me back to a time when I had more insecurities and was trying to figure it all out. But someone of the age is going to relate to this film instantly, and that’s essential.

“The Edge of Seventeen”: ★★★ 1/2

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Review: “La La Land”

mv5bmtkzote3mjuxml5bml5banbnxkftztgwndi2mzc2mdi-_v1_sy1000_cr0015041000_al_What I find most striking about La La Land is its beauty.

Damien Chazelle’s original Hollywood musical isn’t perfect. It has its share of head-tilting moments — an opening musical number which tests your commitment straightaway to what you think you’ve come to the theater to see — and it’s maybe not a movie I’d watch over and over, despite its leading lady. But it’s no less an awe-striking work of cinematography, with all of its vibrant color saturated in perfect light.

We see it throughout the film, in all of the smallest jazz clubs, but most admiringly in the film’s final musical number — co-stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s largest dancing sequence together in the film, bits of which you’ve seen in the previews but can’t begin to measure up to the end product.

Stone (as Mia, an aspiring actress) and Gosling (as Sebastian, a struggling jazz musician) are big dreamers testing the limits of love and ambition. In doing so, I also think the film tells a meaningful story about how love can help you become the person you’re meant to be.

Save the biggest praise for Stone. While both actors sing and dance, it’s Stone who seems to take her character to deeper, more vulnerable places emotionally, as Mia watches Sebastian find success which leaves her wondering if she’s good enough to find hers.

“La La Land”:  ★★★

“Room” deserved better than Sacha Baron Cohen

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Looming over the Academy Awards, a diversity issue. The Academy nominated an all-white group of actors and directors for the second year in a row. Chris Rock, the show’s host, did a really good job framing his monologue and subsequent bits around this topic. The pre-produced sketch inserting black actors into scenes from some of the nominated films (The RevenantJoy, etc.) was hilarious, so was the Compton one.

Knowing Chris Rock would talk about this issue, I was worried about it overshadowing the performances and films actually nominated. They were nominated for good reasons, guys. Chris Rock wasn’t the problem. Some presenters took it upon themselves to push the issue forward. Do you think Kevin Hart’s spiel was scripted?

And then Sacha Baron Cohen took the stage as one of his famous characters, Ali G, to introduce Best Picture nominee Room. What he did pissed me off.

First of all, it wasn’t even supposed to happen.

Much like the character, Ali G, he brought back to the stage and the movies he’s made, his rant was dumb, rotten and awful. Trying satire, he threw shade at the diversity issue by making jokes that missed big-time, when all he had to do — all the producers asked him to do — was introduce an excellent film about something very serious and terrifying.

Maybe the producers are a little to blame, because the people they chose to introduce the Best Picture nominees seemed rather random. But, again: Cohen wasn’t supposed to do that. Go back to that Daily Mail article. They warned him.

But I don’t blame the producers. Yeah, let’s do it different next year. But some presenters gave wonderful introductions. On the red carpet pre-show, Olivia Wilde explained that she was very excited and honored to present Brooklyn as a nominee. It was a film she loved, so the Oscars were an appropriate vehicle for her to go on stage and honor it.

She did, so eloquently.

Cohen acted like he didn’t even know what Room was.

When he finally needed to introduce it, he said: “… and now here’s a movie about a room full of white people.” How disrespectful can you be? A lot of people worked very hard to make this film and, let’s go there, every other film. And yet, Cohen goes up there making jokes, being an idiot. Room deserved way, way more than that disgraceful minute.

And guess what? Everyone knows it.

Did you notice how uncomfortable Olivia Wilde was standing next to him on stage? That’s the way Cohen made me feel, and I hope you, too.

Cohen robbed a wonderful film of the acknowledgement it deserved. To the people watching the Oscars who maybe haven’t seen these films, the introductions can be important endorsements. By introducing Brooklyn, Olivia Wilde is generally saying, “You should see this movie. I loved it. You will, too.”

Thank goodness Brie Larson won Best Actress only a few minutes later.

Chris Rock had the topic under control. It only took one bonehead to ruin it, and that was my concern. Cohen is that guy at a party who steps into a storytelling late and makes a joke that takes it too far. That guy thinks he’s being funny. Cohen was tone deaf to the issue and disrespectful to a great film and the people who made it.