The Edge of Seventeen

Kelly Fremon Craig’s teen comedy is perfectly at home in its millennial generation and is destined to be a classic

edge_of_seventeen_posterHere’s how I know “The Edge of Seventeen” is destined to be a teenage classic: director Kelly Fremon Craig isn’t trying to be John Hughes or Wes Anderson. She isn’t trying to shove what it’s like to be a millennial today down our throats. Her film is hardly nostalgic for some golden age of culture. No one in her movie is a caricature or a stereotype. And her main character isn’t obscenely quirky and trying to be “Juno.”

“The Edge of Seventeen” may not be the best teen coming of age story in recent memory, or the funniest, but by not trying to be a callback to anything else, it’s perfectly at home in its generation.

When Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) storms into her teacher’s empty classroom during his lunch, she collapses into one of the desks exasperated and spurts out what sounds like a prepared diatribe about how she’s going to kill herself. Her teacher takes a long pause and a deep breath before answering her. But because her teacher is actually Woody Harrelson, he slowly works into what sounds like a profound speech and life lesson before teasing her by suggesting, hey, maybe he’ll kill himself too. “It sounds relaxing.” Continue reading “The Edge of Seventeen”

Begin Again

Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo feel real in this charming musical drama by director John Carney.

The mini-miracle of 2007’s hit musical “Once” was perhaps not so much of a surprise after all. Director John Carney took well-established Irish rock stars from the band The Frames (himself a former member) and made a simple movie without much of a plot and with much of Glen Hansard’s already classic music front and center.

But the fact that the movie had great music was really only half the battle. Everything about “Once” seemed cobbled together on the fly. Its look was a rough, documentary realism style and the dialogue was so bare bones it may as well have been improvised. And above all, the chemistry and romance between its two stars, Hansard and Marketa Irglova, felt genuine in both its journey and its outcome.

John Carney’s latest film “Begin Again” seems inspired by that makeshift attitude. It’s a story about working with what you’ve got and simply letting the magic happen. This time around, Carney is working with A-list actors, a pop-rock superstar and a budget that must dwarf what he had on “Once”. Yet when we see Keira Knightley singing into pantyhose with a wire inside or Maroon 5’s Adam Levine playing ping-pong, he’s found the magic again by making it feel real. Continue reading “Begin Again”

True Grit

The original “True Grit” was released in 1969. It was a classical Hollywood Western when Butch and Sundance and “The Wild Bunch” were redefining the genre. The film was a fun throwback, and there are likely no better directors today than the Coen brothers to attempt to revive that same nostalgia.

To belabor the point about Henry Hathaway’s original film, John Wayne, late in his career, was the perfect casting choice as there was no one more Hollywood than he was. His sheer charisma combined with the film’s camp appeal (and not to mention a G-rating) elevated “True Grit” to that of a real “movie” for all those that always loved taking in their old school magic.

So Joel and Ethan Coen had a test on their hands. How do you capture the charm of one of the biggest movie stars of all time, keep the film fun and in the spirit of all the greats from the ‘30s, ’40s and ‘50s and modernize the film to avoid making a shot for shot remake? Continue reading “True Grit”