Growing pains are natural in any profession, it seems. We see fighters go from marginal talents to world class talents, musicians go from supporting roles to headlining tour and others in the entertainment profession grow and evolve over the years. Actors grow in front of us all the time; an entire generation doesn’t remember Leonardo Dicaprio on Growing Pains and just know him as one of the biggest leading men of his generation. You have to go back some ways to remember Denzel Washington as a soap opera actor on St. Elsewhere and not as the tour de force, multiple Oscar winner. And years from now people will forget the growing pains of Hailee Steinfeld as she evolves from teen actress and model into a great leading woman.
It’s just that it takes doing crappy, forgettable films like Barely Lethal to go from being a young actress trying to establish herself into someone along the lines of Julia Roberts.
Simple premise. Steinfeld is Agent 83, part of a group of orphaned girls trained from birth to be super assassins. She’s always just wanted to be a normal teenager, though, and her life is a series of spy games and an obsession with pop culture moments for teenagers. When the opportunity comes to ditch the government and become a teenager, Agent 83 becomes Canadian exchange student Megan Walsh. Adjusting to life as a typical teenager, her past life comes back when an evil arms dealer (Jessica Alba) tracks her down. Her particular set of skills comes in handy when she has to find a way of keeping her new life intact.
This is the sort of film perfectly designed for Steinfeld to develop her abilities in leading a film without the pressure of having to open it in theatres as well. She has all of the acting chops and charisma needed to step into the part of a high profile leading actress; she just needs to find herself as an actress first. It takes films like this, far from the spotlight, for anyone to develop that ability to be comfortable with a film relying on their shoulders to work.
Steinfeld is more than adequate in the part and this feels like a part we’ll look back on in a couple years to see how far she’s grown as an actress. So far she’s capable of carrying a smaller film like this, one that is about as bad as a direct to DVD film usually is, but right now you have to look at her like a good prospect in baseball. You can bring her up for solid supporting roles in major films, ala Pitch Perfect 2, but she’s not ready to be a regular starter just yet.
She’s not far from being ready; she needs those reps in the minors, to develop her acting swing, as she gets brief moments in the big leagues to shine. When she’s ready to step into a leading role on a regular basis this is the sort of film that’ll have prepared her to do so. Steinfeld carries this fairly unsubstantial film to about as good as it can be; there’s a reason why a film with a cast as loaded as this wound up going with a limited video on demand before being dumped direct to video.
Lionsgate presents Barely Lethal. Directed by Kyle Newman. Written by John D’Arco. Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Sophie Turner, Dove Cameron, Jessica Alba, Samuel L. Jackson. Run Time: 96 minutes Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: 8.4.15
Tags: Barely Lethal, Hailee Steinfeld, Jessica Alba, Samuel L. Jackson