Are Taylor Swift and Hailee Steinfeld Collaborating?

30 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Barely Lethal’ kicks teen angst over the head with weak spy tale.

On screens as one of the Barden Bellas in Pitch Perfect 2, Hailee Steinfeld (pictured) also pops up as a teen assassin in Barely Lethal which opens this week.A young orphan girl, raised by her very specialized orphanage to be a master assassin, finally gets her chance to be a regular teenage girl when a mission gone wrong allows her to fake her own death and enter herself into a foreign exchange program where she gets to live with a perfectly “average” American family. This teenage spy comedy opened on US cable tv at the end of April and receives a limited release in the US at the same time as it hits South African theatres. Steinfeld plays Megan Walsh, an orphan raised from childhood to be an unstoppable assassin in a girls’ private academy with a strict no-personal-attachments credo enforced by its headmaster (Samuel L.

Steinfeld’s character Megan has been raised by an international espionage agency and when she fakes her death to get away from them, she enrols in a local high school. The last few years have given us several good films based on young-adult novels (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “The Spectacular Now” come to mind), as well as plenty based on books about dystopian near-future worlds (“The Hunger Games,” “Divergent”). It’s easy to imagine that the makers of this PG-13 action comedy did the same thing, because their movie borrows every trope while leaving out both the heart and brains that made the characters in those films welcome cinematic companions through high school and beyond.

What we’re still waiting for is another raucous teen comedy in the “Breakfast Club” vein, not quite so bawdy as “Superbad” but more down and dirty than the godawful kiddie cable comedies that infect the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. The second feature from “Fanboys” director Kyle Newman and first for screenwriter John D’Arco, “Barely Lethal” is more a pitch — “La Femme Nikita” meets “Mean Girls,” “Hit-Girl” meets “Pretty in Pink” — than an actual movie with fleshed out, rootable characters. But when Megan is found out, her colleague and cutthroat rival Heather, played by Turner, is placed undercover to keep an eye on her – and, just for kicks, ruin her new life whenever possible.

As she becomes a teen, this proves more difficult — especially after she discovers movies like “Mean Girls” and decides she wants life as a normal teenage girl (albeit one who behaves like the ones on TV and in films). It’s not particularly surprising that the actual film is never as good as its punny moniker might suggest but even if it does feel like a very real missed opportunity, it’s actually way more fun than you might think a Grosse Point Blank for the Twilight crowd might be.

Essentially a one-joke affair — playing the team mascot, the kid killer beats the tar out of pranksters whom she mistakes for fellow hired guns — the movie has a few cute moments, but for the most part it’s as predictable as being bored in trigonometry. No question, it would have been great if Barely Lethal took the Buffy the Vampire Slayer route and used its silly premise as a metaphor for real adolescent concerns (though, to be fair, it does touch on this at least a little) or did something anarchic in the mould of Kick Ass or Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Indeed, both sounding a little sniffly, they shared a blanket when they sat down with SPINOFF to discuss everything from spycraft to superheroics to singing prowess. Bright spots include Thomas Mann — soon to be seen in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” — as a boy crushing on Megan, and Rachael Harris (“Diary of a Wimpy Kid”) as a single mom who takes Megan in, thinking she’s a visiting student from Canada. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles. Not that her ineptitude shows: She closes out the musical comedy with the empowering Flashlight (written by Sia and Sam Smith) and is poised to take over the female-fronted franchise in the inevitable third movie.

He had, like, a playlist, and I went through and sort of, like, flipped through the script while each song was for each scene or whatever, and he really had a vision of it. What it is instead is a fairly straightforward teen comedy that happens to feature lethal kid-assassins, along with Jessica Alba as a surprisingly fitting baddie and Samuel L Jackson as the most cuddly hard-ass ever. Although she has dabbled in music in her spare time and played guitar in last summer’s Begin Again, “doing this movie, I realized (that music) was something I couldn’t live without.” Luckily, she has a close pal in singer Taylor Swift, having recently appeared in her all-star Bad Blood music video as a trio of stony triplets called “The Trinity.” Whether it’s music or life advice, “I’m able to look up to her for just about everything,” Steinfeld says. “She sets such an incredible example for everyone.” And with other famous friends such as Turner, Odeya Rush (The Giver) and Sarah Hyland (Modern Family), “I feel like I’m a part of a generation of women that completely support and empower each other, and that’s something really special.” Sophie Turner: Also, just as soon as I saw the cast, as soon as I spoke to Kyle about who he was thinking of casting, I was just like, “There’s no way that I can’t be part of this film!” It’s such a brilliant cast.

But luckily for her, the attack on the rivals goes viral, attracting the attentions of Cash Fenton (Tony Sebastian), a budding rock star and all-around big man on campus. OK, maybe it’s a bit of a stretch and, yes, obviously Barely Lethal isn’t a patch on the sheer bloody awesomeness of one of John Cusack’s very best movies (and, to those of you too young to remember John Cusack from the ’80s through to the early 2000s, he really was in loads and loads of great movies) but the fact that I could make an even remote connection between Barely Lethal and a modern day classic means that it has at least something going for it.

The girls stab baby dolls as a way of learning that they should form no emotional attachments, and learn to fire automatic weapons and round kick one another while wearing sports bras and capri-length yoga pants. It has a script by newbie John D’Arco, for starters, that may be cliché but is also quite witty, often laugh out loud funny, with more than enough heart to prevent it from ever being nothing more than an exercise in genre cross-dressing. Jessica Alba, who herself played an action heroine in her breakout TV series “Dark Angel” 15 years ago, is the villain here, and there is a certain seductive fun in seeing the now-34-year-old actress tweak her own image. “You and I actually do have a lot in common,” Alba’s Victoria Knox tells Megan. “Except I’m not a psycho bitch,” the youngster replies. “Give it some time,” Knox replies. It also has a cast that includes heavy hitters like Jackson and Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner to balance out anyone who doesn’t quite manage to pull their weight, but its not-so-secret secret weapon is Hailee Steinfeld.

Great teen movies serve a function higher than entertainment — they remind the awkward adolescent that she is not alone, that her foremothers also coped with cruel classmates, unrequited crushes, clueless parents. She is, in a word, adorable and even if she doesn’t quite convince as a ruthless killer here (no one else does either, of course – that’s sort of the point), she is simply adorable as the film’s more than slightly dorky, fish-out-of-water heroine. Having acting careers at the early ages that you both you started, did you feel a little left of center yourselves among your peers, like your characters – trying to figure out where you fit in the mainstream world?

Is that important to you, to be able to find these kinds of physically capable characters that traditionally men had a choke hold on but have interesting colors in their personalities as well? And this really centers on that and focuses on that: that even from young girls to teenage, high school, whatever, they can handle just about anything. But it kind of was like a breath of fresh air, especially doing the fighting scenes where I could be the threat to someone rather than the other way around, being the victim. Whereas you have a musician who, they perform live to an audience, right in front of them, then they get that live reaction – whereas we don’t get that. So I think over social media, we are able to put something out or say something that we feel strongly about, and we get a live reaction, which is really pretty amazing.

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