An unusually realistic teen movie, this drama gets deep under the skin of its characters, breathing new life into the genre. First-time director Kelly Fremon Craig (who previously wrote the rom-com Post Grad) has created an involving film about a teenaged girl who is easy to identify with. The script may try too hard to explain away all of her darker emotions, but it's sharp and entertaining.
Hailee Steinfeld stars as Nadine, a 17-year-old in Portland, Oregon. On the fringe of the popular kids at school, she feels like a loser who doesn't deserve to live. And she can't cope with the fact that her best pal Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) has fallen for her irritatingly popular big brother Darian (Blake Jenner). It certainly doesn't help that her mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) is an emotional wreck, or that Nadine is being pursued by the class nerd Erwin (Hayden Szeto), because she's much more interested in bad boy Nick (Alexander Calvert). In need of someone to talk to, she turns to her grouchy history teacher Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson), who refuses to indulge in her angst. But he's also the only person who actually listens to her.
Steinfeld is terrific in the role, bringing an endearing raw authenticity to a character who isn't hugely likeable. As Nadine ruthlessly insults everyone around her, Steinfeld quietly reveals the sensitive soul inside, which adds a blast of complexity to her scenes with the superbly restrained Harrelson, Sedgwick and Jenner. All of these relationships are difficult and often startlingly realistic, as is the depiction of high school peer pressure. As Nadine's classmates, Richardson has a wonderfully twisty role as her childhood bestie who has apparently betrayed her trust, while Szeto steals his scenes as the hilariously awkward Erwin.
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Riding in Cars with Boys follows the life of Beverly Hasek (Drew Barrymore) as she takes up the difficult role of motherhood at the age of 15, while at the same time, never giving up her dreams. And, while a quintessential chick flick, Riding in Cars chooses to take a higher road -- a genuine road, filled with life lessons so real you can feel them burning their way down your throat and tugging at that little place inside you that says, "Hey, this could have been me!"
Continue reading: Riding In Cars With Boys Review