If She Ruled the World: On the Edge of Greatness

Kevin Kapenda, Columnist // Illustration by Cynthia Tran Vo

It’s been said that it’s not about the destination but the journey. If so, then Hailee Steinfeld is just about there. After a string of supporting performances and a lead role in arguably the best teen movie of the 2010s, Steinfeld is set to have her coming out party this winter when the Transformers prequel, Bumblebee, hits theatres on Dec. 21.

To date, Steinfeld’s career has not quite been that of a child star, but rather that of a child actress. She first broke out in the a critically-acclaimed performance as the child in the award-winning western True Grit (2010), for which she was nominated for numerous accolades, including an  Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Not resting on her laurels, Steinfeld did what any young talent should do and what I believe is the mark of a great actor, which was to take on as many different roles as possible.

In 2013, she appeared in three films. Ender’s Game was an action sci-fi, Begin Again was the story of her divorced dad struggling to find himself after the separation and Romeo & Juliet was her own romance movie. The former films were well received by critics and her performances in supporting roles praised. However, Romeo & Juliet, and her biggest role of the year was lambasted by critics. Little did that phase her though as she would put together an even greater run of films in the coming years, assembling  her singing career beautifully in Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and 3 (2017), while resuscitating the teen movie genre in the Edge of Seventeen (2016).

Her performance in the Edge of Seventeen was lauded for her authentic and relatable portrayal of her character, Nadine, which at several times during the film, felt like she wasn’t acting at all. In the film, Nadine goes  through  many relatable challenges, such as navigating dating and figuring out what it is you’re truly attracted to. On top of this, Nadine has a rocky relationship with her mother and brother, who ends up dating her best friend against her wishes. To top it all off, she is still reeling from the loss of her father a few years earlier, something anyone who has lost a parent at a young age understands. Yet despite her middle-class nightmarish antics, it is impossible to turn on Steinfeld’s character, like your selfish, but impossible to stop loving, teenage sister.

But perhaps what makes Steinfeld so impressive is that when she is not acting, she isn’t sitting at home flicking through channels. Since dropping her debut album in 2015, which was more of an EP and was re-released in 2016 with more tracks, she has carved out a pretty successful career as a pop singer in a genre that is kind of going through an identity crisis. Her 2016 single, “Starving”, peaked at 12 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and at nine on the Canadian equivalent. After going on tour this year with Charlie Puth in July, August and early September, she announced that she was working on a sophomore album to be released in 2019.

While we’ll need to wait a little while longer for her next music, Bumblebee is just around the corner. Though  Steinfeld’s past films have earned their keep on the pages of newspapers and pop culture websites through critical acclamation , Bumblebee is sure to gross well over 700 million like past Transformers films. If True Grit was her breakout and the Edge of Seventeen her homecoming, Bumblebee will be her graduation to an A-list leading lady in Hollywood. When she becomes the next Jessica Chastain, don’t be surprised and act as if it came out of nowhere. You heard it here first.

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