"Candy Jar"

What kept me locked in this film, that at times is predictable, was the moments of surprise. The referential part to the title plays an interesting part to the film, not directly to the plot: two high school seniors vying to be president of their debate team while applying to their dream Ivy League universities. The ending is quite wonderful, almost with a cliff hanger.

Jacob Latimore is in stunning acting form as Bennett, a Yale hopeful and over-achieving son of a senator, Julia, played with enthusiasm, by Uzo Aduba. Julia strives to prepare her son for the real world with grit and eventual compassion. Sami Gayle is strong and delightful as Lona, also an over-achieving student whose ambition is to get into Harvard. Her loving and strong mother, Amy, played fiercely and wonderfully by Christina Hendricks, is not just an encouraging mom. She works hard to support Lona and does not hold back with her thoughts particularly with her feud with Julia. Helen Hunt is charismatic as the guidance counselor, a venting board for Bennett and Lona. Tom Bergeron, who I forgot is an actor, plays the charming principal. Austin Flynn, Blake Flynn, Ariana Guerra, Kathleen Hogan and Paul Tigue complete a strong supporting cast.

As a student mentor, I appreciated a lens on the intense, competitive nature of applying to college. Students trying to ignore the potential lows of rejection. Reflecting on regret from experiences not had in order to attain a dream. Writer Chad Klitzman crafted a relatable story with understanding circumstances through whimsical humor and great drama. Director Ben Shelton brings the intimacy between the characters to drawn in the connections.

You can watch this film on Netflix.