The Edge of Seventeen, 2016.
Written and Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig.
Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Blake Jenner, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, and Kyra Sedgwick.
High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.
At some point high school is probably miserable for all teenagers (and far worse for some others), so it’s probably a good thing that within minutes of The Edge of Seventeen beginning, Hailee Steinfeld is able to convince audiences that super socially awkward Nadine is both likable and worth caring about. Credit also goes to debut director Kelly Fremon Craig for drawing up a series of life events and situations (the majority of the first 10 minutes are flashbacks to Nadine’s early childhood and adolescence, showcasing that good things rarely happen in her life) that make the following 90 minutes or so of craziness (and sometimes frustrating personality traits) worth empathizing over.
To everyone but her peer (note that the word is not plural) and history teacher (played with a sardonic smart-ass presence by Woody Harrelson in a role definitely worth tossing some praise towards), Nadine is an insufferable psychopathic bitch to be around; people literally hate her, find her awkward, or just don’t even give her a chance. Yes, she is presented as a very complex person, but it is those complexities that make her such a strongly written character worth analyzing and understanding. No, The Edge of Seventeen isn’t the most original coming-of-age dramedy under the sun, but both the writing and outstanding performance from the aforementioned Hailee Steinfeld (it’s also worth reminding readers that she was nominated for an Oscar at the age of 13 for Joel and Ethan Coen’s True Grit remake) are more than enough to outweigh that glaringly obvious black mark. Genuine emotion will always win out.
Without going into too much detail, yes, Nadine makes a lot of mistakes on her journey to adulthood, specifically throughout a few week stretch during junior year. She is infatuated with an attractive schoolmate she knows nothing about when there is an equally awkward and deep voiced (and most importantly, caring) student clearly interested in her romantically. I don’t believe I have seen Hayden Szeto act in anything before, but his oddball idiosyncratic personality is obviously a perfect match for Nadine, and the scenes that the two share together are filled with heart and light fun. Both the actors and the characters have just the right chemistry.
Naturally, Nadine is also a complete pain in the ass for her widowed mother (played by Kyra Sedgwick) and her brother who is essentially the antithesis to her; winning comes to him with ease, he’s got the body of a Greek God with some pleasant facial aesthetics to boot, and oh yeah, he’s now fucking his sister’s only friend which obviously doesn’t sit right with her, turning the family dynamic of the household upside down into a war zone. What’s most fascinating about Nadine and Darian though (played by Blake Jenner who recently portrayed a similar meathead stereotype in Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!) is that she wants to be understood, while he is misunderstood as some jock that only cares about himself.
Familial and romantic issues lead Nadine to often hang out with her history teacher (Woody Harrelson) at lunch who as previously mentioned gives advice in the most wise ass manner possible. Seriously, he is a comedic treasure here, serving up a number of great lines, but once again it is Hailee Steinfeld that is able to keep up and rapidly fire off a number of monologues with passion. Many of them also highly resonate, as one in particular puts the current generation of youth under attack for living in their phones and only being able to communicate via emojis. Not only is Nadine dropping some truth bombs, but these poignant observations allow us to like her and see that there is more to her than a whiny little first world problems teenage bitch.
Character examinations aside, The Edge of Seventeen is also just plain funny. The boldness to go all the way with the R rating and actually depict teenagers like actual teenagers (and not whatever crap is on the Disney Channel nowadays) allows for director Kelly Fremon Craig to push the narrative into some very mature boundaries that don’t just service the story, but also make the laughs genuine. Teenagers curse, drink, fuck, and more as they try new experiences and navigate their way to adulthood, so it’s always nice when a movie actually portrays them with authenticity. If The Edge of Seventeen was some watered down PG-13 coming-of-age dramedy it wouldn’t be nearly as hilarious, and the already formulaic plot would almost guaranteed come across as far more vanilla. Furthermore, by making something true to the lives of actual teenagers, the movie will resonate far easier and be of help to those in similar situations.
Likely no one will be surprised at the trajectory of The Edge of Seventeen‘s plot and where it ends up, but it has heart, raw emotion, fantastic performances, and a number of supporting characters to add on to the fun. It will also make you pay extra extra attention before hitting the send button on text messages.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★