The director and writer hits all of the notes that have been missing in the young adult oeuvre since Hughes’ passing.
Her film is ironic, touching and funny without drifting into the maudlin.
Protagonist Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) must learn to deal with the frustrations of growing up in the shadow of her adored brother Darien (Blake Jenner).
Mom Mona (Kyra Sedgewick) and loving father Tom, played brilliantly by Eric Keenleyside, do their best. But Nadine feels underappreciated; she just can’t seem to get it right.
Lifelong friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) helps her cope. But Nadine’s father suddenly dies while she’s still in high school, leaving her more emotionally adrift than ever.
Nadine is aghast when Krista starts dating her brother. At school, the last refuge for her trust is one of her teachers, Mr. Cruner, portrayed marvelously by Woody Harrelson.
She confides in him, yet he’s initially standoffish. When Nadine is at her most desperate, however, you know he’ll be the one to rescue her.
The movie actually opens up with Nadine running into Cruner’s classroom and bluntly announcing she’s going to kill herself.
Added to the mix are boy problems that bring the coming-of-age film full circle. The growing object of her affections at school is bad-boy Nick (Alexander Calvert), who works at a PetCo store.
When a text message goes awry, she finally comes face-to-face with him. But Nick only seems to have the worst intentions. Stranded at a diner, she calls Cruner, who picks her up and takes her to his house. She is surprised to meet his young son and wife.
I wondered for a moment if the sudden pairing of student and teacher would prove to be unsettling, given today’s headlines. But Craig has handled their relationship in a terrific manner.
Cruner’s wife is especially supportive, and Cruner himself is something of a doting dad. When Darien arrives to pick he up and they begin to fight, Cruner, again, comes to her rescue.
Back at home, Darien confronts her and says he’s always taken care of her, especially since their father died. A tender scene for sure; they finally clear the air.
Concurrent with all this, she befriends another schoolmate, Erwin, terrifically played by Hayden Szeto. The nerdy teen appears even more confused than Nadine.
A relationship soon develops. Before long, she visits a film festival where one of his short films is screening. Yep, Erwin based the film on her and a true relationship blossoms.
Among the talented cast, Harrelson is terrific and Sedgewick a stitch. If you’re expecting her character from “The Closer,” get ready for a big surprise.
I’ve seen many of the so-called teen comedies of the last few years, and they never seemed to match up to a Hughes film.
This one certainly does. It’s perfectly cast with a bravura performance from Hailee Steinfeld. This one will resonate with millennials.
The movie opens Friday (Nov. 11). Check out the red band trailer (language) below.