Smile Review

Parker Finn’s Smile is essentially The Ring if that distorted VHS tape were replaced with a distorted facial expression. As these jump scare heavy horror pics go, this one usually hits the right notes (including with its sound design).

Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) is a psychologist working at a busy mental ward. She makes the acquaintance of Laura (Caitlin Stasey), who witnessed her professor commit suicide. Ever since then, she’s been traumatized by an unseen being. Laura is a basket case until… she’s not and a creepy grin emerges. Those who’ve witnessed the trailer know that bloodshed follows.

What also follows (it follows… so to speak) is an evil spirit possibly latching onto the doctor and no one believing her. This includes her fiancee (Jessie T. Usher), an ex boyfriend who’s a cop (Kyle Gallner), and her sister (Gillian Zinser). Their skepticism is understandable as a family tragedy when Rose was 10 years old might explain her bizarre behavior.

Besides the mentions of It Follows and The Ring, Finn’s debut (he wrote it too) borrows plenty from earlier genre pieces. While originality isn’t its strong suit, there are a few legitimately hair raising instances. There’s one session with Rose’s therapist that’s far scarier than the bill.

Despite a few unnecessary shots that seem inspired by Inception, Finn seems like a filmmaker to keep an eye on. Bacon (daughter of Kevin and Kyra Sedgwick) is given a few good moments of genuinely convincing terror. This is genre work executed well as these characters smile though their arteries are bursting.

*** (out of four)

Smile Box Office Prediction

Paramount Pictures is hoping that horror fans are ready to Smile on September 30th. The supernatural fright fest marks the directorial debut of Parker Finn with a cast including Sosie Bacon (daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick), Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Kal Penn, and Rob Morgan.

This is a genre that’s been well served in September with Barbarian and Pearl (and The Invitation in late August). The trend will continue with Halloweens Ends in mid-October. There could be a bit of fatigue, but Smile may have a feather in its cap. The mysterious and creepy teaser spot played all summer long in front of a little film called Top Gun: Maverick… the one that’s made over $700 million domestically.

A premiere in the $20 million range is certainly possible. However, I’ll say high teens is where this lands.

Smile opening weekend prediction: $18.7 million

For my Bros prediction, click here:

Bros Box Office Prediction

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

We’ve seen plenty of coming of age teen dramedies since the 1980s and beyond. It’s the kind of thing John Hughes cornered a market on three decades ago. I have a feeling Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen would’ve made him smile. It presents teens who are smart and complicated. High schoolers who are capable of being wholly self-absorbed yet most of it stems from insecurity. Our central character Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) means well most of the time, at least in her own mind. And she’s the prime example of the traits listed above. With a truly impressive performance from an actress who broke out at age 14 in the Coens True Grit, both Steinfeld and Craig’s screenplay make Nadine feel authentic. You root for her even when you’re exasperated by her. Many a parent with teens could surely relate.

Nadine is an outsider – a high school junior with only one real friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). She’s always been a bit of a loner and the loss of her beloved father four years ago complicated it. Her overwhelmed Mom (Kyra Sedgwick) has a tough time figuring how to deal with her, while her super popular older brother Darian (Blake Jenner) seems to have life all figured out. When Darian and Krista begin dating, Nadine’s abandonment issues only worsen.

Throughout the picture, she turns to various people to try and alleviate her social awkwardness. This includes slightly nerdy student Erwin (Hayden Szeto), who’s crushing on her and too cool for school student Nick (Alexander Calvert), who she’s crushing on. Both relationships present with their own versions of humorous and recognizable awkwardness. Nadine also confides in her teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson). He’s nowhere near the uncaring educator you’d witness in other genre pics nor the always wiser than thou teach you may have seen before. He clearly cares about Nadine, but his advice and comebacks are often genuinely surprising. There’s a subtly played moment where his pupil realizes her teacher has a life outside of the classroom and it feels just right. Most pleasingly, the role serves as another reminder that Harrelson has morphed into one of the most interesting character actors working today. He’s a pleasure to watch.

So is Steinfeld and the rest of the cast. The Edge of Seventeen might be more satisfying to viewers who have surpassed the age in the title by a few years. There may be more satisfaction for adults who can pick out their own remembrances of what it was like to be that age, when the highs couldn’t have seemed higher and the lows were literally the end of the world. Kelly Fremon Craig has crafted a perceptive, occasionally laugh out loud funny, and genuinely emotional snapshot of someone in that time period.

***1/2 (out of four)

The Edge of Seventeen Box Office Prediction

Hailee Steinfeld first broke onto the film scene as a young teen in the Coen Brothers hit Western remake True Grit. The result? An Oscar nomination for Supporting Actress. Since then, she’s made a few screen appearances and also become a platinum selling musician.

Next weekend, she’s said to have yet another breakout role headlining The Edge of Seventeen, a coming of age comedic drama. The pic debuted to highly positive reviews at the Toronto Film Festival and is at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Kelly Fremon Craig directs and costars include Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson, and Kyra Sedgwick.

How it will fare at the multiplexes? Perhaps solid buzz could keep it going well in subsequent weekends, but I’m not anticipating anything above a low teens opening as the higher bar. For one thing, this is going for a teen audience who may well be preoccupied with Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

I’ll predict Seventeen hits low double digits for its start.

The Edge of Seventeen opening weekend prediction: $10.9 million

For my Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/11/09/fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-box-office-prediction/

For my Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/11/09/billy-lynns-long-halftime-walk-box-office-prediction/

For my Bleed for This prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/11/10/bleed-for-this-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Edge of Seventeen

As the Toronto Film Festival has drawn to its conclusion, we have another picture to discuss and it’s a teen comedy drawing great reviews. The Edge of Seventeen stars Hailee Steinfeld as a high school junior whose brother starts dating her best friend. It costars Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson, and Kyra Sedgwick. Kelly Fremon Craig writes and directs and Seventeen is scheduled for a November 18th domestic release.

Six years ago, young Steinfeld was cast in the plum role of Mattie Ross in the Coen Brothers blockbuster True Grit. For it, she nabbed a Best Supporting Actress nod. Critics have been raving about her work here. Yet as has been discussed on this blog in recent days, 2016’s Actress race looks highly competitive and there may not be enough room for her this time around. Perhaps Craig could find herself in the mix for Original Screenplay if the film hits with audiences and the critical love continues.

Look for Oscar Watch posts as more hopefuls screen…