The Edge Of Seventeen

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig (2016) BBFC cert: 15

Hailee Steinfeld is best known for her Oscar nominated portrayal of a revenge seeking daughter in the Coen Brothers 2010 remake of True Grit. Now her sparky talent shines as a confused teen in this smart and funny essay on the high school experience.

Given to spirited monologues and threats of suicide, Nadine’s hard yards to adulthood involves anti-depressants, booze, vomit, rejection, inappropriate sexting and stealing a car. Her path to enlightenment involves realising she must first change herself, if she wants to improve her life.

An early death powers her family’s dynamic with everyone dealing with the fallout in their own way. But the tone is light and there’s an absence of malice in a script which has heart enough for everyone. Haley Lu Richardson, Kyra Sedgwick, Blake Jenner and especially Hayden Szeto offer charmingly fractious support.

A deliciously dead pan Woody Harrelson plays her history teacher. He bats her away Nadine’s crisis with patient dry humour. It’s these scenes which provide the films entertaining edge.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

The Hunger Games. Mockingjay Part 2

Director: Francis Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence takes arms against the world for the fourth time as in this concluding chapter of the dystopian sci-fi series.

As freedom loving fighter Katniss Everdeen, Hollywood’s highest paid actress offers a typically excellent performance of weary intensity.

She is given far less opportunity to display her fighting skills in this sombre episode.

It’s handsome, well acted and thoughtful, yet the dialogue is often uninspiring and it’s a long march to the action.

By adding scenes with human shields and a trail of refugees the script plunders contemporary concerns but doesn’t offer comment.

Initially we’re forced to put in a few hard yards ourselves as we’re re-introduced to the motivations of the characters and it’s almost a relief when war starts whittling away their numbers.

As her comrades die in the cause of freedom, Katniss longs to fight.

But Julianne Moore’s scheming rebel commander Coin considers Katniss a useful propaganda tool and refuses to let her.

When the unified rebel army marches on the Capitol, Katniss is embedded in a media platoon which contains both points of her love triangle.

But there isn’t much tension between hunky warrior Liam Hemsworth Gale and Josh Hutcherson‘s brainwashed former turncoat Peeta.

Both are fairly dull characters but with Sam Claflin’s maverick warrior Finnick married off, she hasn’t much to choose from.

When her squad commander is killed, Katniss takes charge and leads her team on a suicide mission.

Her target is to assassinate Donald Sutherland’s evil despot President Snow who is holed up in an opulent and heavily guarded mansion.

As Katniss navigates the rubble strewn streets, she’s lumbered with a device which suspiciously resembles a game console.

It’s designed to detect Snow’s extraordinarily elaborate booby-traps.

The troops combat floods, flame, friendly fire and ferocious underground ghouls.

Friends and family are killed or captured as they trek through the terrain of the fallen city and Katniss has a suicide pill should her plan fail.

Though the foreboding tone is sensibly free of laughs, the regular supporting cast bring smiles of recognition.

Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci don their fabulous costumes one last time and a shambling Woody Harrelson adds some welcome warmth.

The late Philip Seymour Hoffman has a surprisingly large amount of screen time in a final hurrah for his great talent.

Four years ago Lawrence was a little known actress.

Now due in no small part to The Hunger Games’ billion dollar success, she’s firmly and deservedly part of the A list.

By tackling the themes of war, freedom, suffering and sacrifice in a measured and occasionally spectacular fashion, this franchise has raised the bar for the Young Adult genre.

But as solid and satisfying as the Hunger Games are, I’ve had my fill and I couldn’t stomach another one.