2016 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

Already an 'A' student when it comes to angst and alienation, teenager Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) considers it the ultimate emotional blow when her best - and only - friend (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her ultra-popular brother (Blake Jenner). Feeling alone and betrayed, Nadine is left to chart her own course through the torrid seas of adolescence. Unfortunately, she's not the best navigator... Teacher Woody Harrelson offers sardonic support in a coming-of-age comedy with plenty of attitude and a bittersweet tang.

Director

  • Kelly Fremon Craig

Cast

  • Hailee Steinfeld

  • Woody Harrelson

  • Kyra Sedgwick

  • Haley Lu Richardson

  • Blake Jenner

  • Hayden Szeto

  • Alexander Calvert

Review

Hailee Steinfeld goes from ​Barely Lethal to barely tolerable in a rite-of-passage bitchfest that would love to rub shoulders with Mean Girls, Heathers, Easy A and Juno, but feels more like squeezing spots with Harry Enfield's teenager Kevin.

Putting the pain in growing pains, Steinfeld plays Nadine, a self-centred teenage mopebag who's, like, all angry at the world because her dad died and her big brother Darian (Jenner) is, like, cool and popular... Whereas she's an antisocial smart-aleck with one friend, Krista (Richardson), whom she's frankly lucky to have.

The fact that Krista and Darian are sweet and likeable, and obviously made for each other means nothing to Nadine, who takes it as an act of treason when they inevitably get together.

Nadine thus takes her revenge. By being ludicrously unreasonable to everyone. Not only to the blameless couple, but also her flaky mother (Kyra Sedgwick) and the only person who'll give her the time of day - because it's his job - her world-weary teacher Mr Bruner (Harrelson).

Of course we've all been there - not being able to decide whose pool to swim in, how many expensive outfits to cast aside before a big date, which of the family's luxury cars to drive off in during a tantrum... Life is so unfair.

So, teenagers are fickle. Who knew? To be fair, first-time writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig doesn't sugarcoat the adolescent condition. Unfortunately - if somehow appropriately - her film is a lot less insightful and a great deal more disingenuous than it would have you believe.

Take Nadine. On the one hand, she's clearly a good-looking girl with a ready line in locker-room banter and droll wit, and plenty to say to anyone who'll listen.

On the other, we're supposed to view her as a chronic wallflower with no confidence or social skills. Someone even likens her to Danny DeVito in Twins. Fact is, the only ugly thing about her is her raging self-pity.

What's even stranger is that Fremon Craig gives Nadine absolutely no hidden depths. Where most of the other characters do something to please or surprise, Nadine is simply struck with a terminal inability to get over herself.

As a result, the film doesn't present the edge of seventeen so much as its annoyingly grating surface.

Elliott Noble