The Edge of Seventeen

 photo edge_of_seventeen_zpswfnlff2h.jpg photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgIt’s nice to see that the ongoing plight of the adolescent hasn’t changed. The “major” dilemmas for a pretty, young, well-to-do student from suburban Portland may not add up to much in the grand scheme of things, but they represent the entire world to a 17-year-old girl. The drama opens with our hapless hero Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) informing her teacher (Woody Harrelson), that she’s going to kill herself. She’s clearly being overly dramatic and Mr. Bruner responds with appropriate sarcasm. To be fair, she has real problems. Her father unexpectedly died 3 years ago. However, that is not the focus. It’s all about the awkward social skills, not fitting in with the cool kids, the unattainable crush, arguments with her more popular sibling, a mom that doesn’t get her and an instructor who does. This picture could have come from any era. In 1984 it would have been produced by filmmaker John Hughes. In 2016, it’s a surprisingly self-assured gem from writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig.

What makes this umpteenth rumination on teen angst so vital is its stark authenticity. Craig manages to sidestep a lot of clichés with her directorial debut. The portrayal surrounds Nadine with all the usual suspects in a young girl’s life: the mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick), Darian the brother (Blake Jenner), the best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), Mr. Bruner, the aforementioned teacher (Woody Harrelson), Nick the crush (Alexander Calvert), and Erwin the nerd (Hayden Szeto). The individuals may serve as stock archetypes but their personalities most definitely are not. I’ll admit there are a few artificially manufactured moments for the sake of drama. Hayden Szeto’s Asian nerd is so ridiculously fit and yet painfully sweet that her total disregard of him is a bit eye-rolling, to say the least. This would only occur in a story where a character must make a predictable trajectory. You’re just waiting for this to happen. The thing is, you’re rooting for it because he’s just so winning. So is everyone else in the movie.

The adolescent feeling that “nobody understands me” has been done before. The Edge of Seventeen is a fresh take that adds to a genre already crowded with a lot of great films. Let’s give major props to a star who continues to impress, Hailee Steinfeld. Ever since she was famously introduced as Mattie Ross in True Grit, she continues to make her film presence known. As the teen at the center of this tale, Halle Steinfeld manages to pull off the miraculous. On the one hand, she is rude, crude, and misanthropic. Her misfit high school junior is kind of a jerk. And yet we see the lovable warmth within. She’s a difficult personality but her snark is infused with enough wit that we embrace this youth. Director Kelly Fremon Craig’s vision is an innovative take on a woman’s odyssey through high school. Her screenplay treats each role with fairness and depth. Steinfeld is the MVP of the picture. Naturally, she should be. It’s her chronicle. And yet everyone in the production gets a chance to shine. The surprise is, despite all their foibles, we still embrace these people. When her best friend starts dating her brother, we grasp Nadine’s frustration. Her world logically (and predictably) comes apart. The way it’s handled, however, subverts expectations. You think you know these characters, but you don’t.


18 Responses to “The Edge of Seventeen”

  1. smilingldsgirl Says:

    It executes what it’s trying to do just about perfectly so I admire that. I found it was a film I admired more than I liked. It was just so unpleasant. I prefer something like Sing Street or Perks of Being a Wallflower with a more hopeful tone. Even Juno or Dazed and Confused tackle teenage angst in a more pleasant way if that makes sense. But very well done all involved. The Woody Harrelson teacher was a very well written character

    • I didn’t find it unpleasant. She had a genuine reason to be upset. Krista was her BFF since grade school and now that girl was dating her brother. I understood that that relationship would be troubling. I liked that each individual was a fully developed person and it was easy to understand everyone’s perspective.

      There were some concessions made, however. Nadine was only gawky/ugly in a Hollywood way. That girl would be homecoming queen in real life. And I don’t remember socially awkward nerds with abs like that, but hey it’s a movie.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        LOL. That’s true. I am glad you didn’t find it unpleasant. She had some reasons to be miserable and that’s why I admire the film. I gave it an A- but I still never want to see it again. I found it kind of an exhausting experience to be honest

      • Then I’m surprised you gave it an A-. I thought it was pretty enjoyable. I laughed quite a bit.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Yeah it’s very well executed for what it’s trying to be so I admire it for that

        I guess I can’t really explain it very well. There are just some movies I admire and think are expertly crafted but find kind of exhausting at the same time. You cant relate to that?

      • “I never want to see it again. I found it an exhausting experience. A-” I don’t think I would use those words. You can’t see my confusion?

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Yeah I’m not explaining it well I suppose. It was a real emotional experience for me that I think was expertly crafted but I still found myself somewhat depleted from it. I wanted to call my Mom and apologize for being my own version of an angry teen. The logic makes sense in my head. LOL. 🙂

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Now that I look at it I gave it a B+. That’s probably more accurate to my feelings. Still they did a good job capturing a certain type of character very well

      • I too gave it an A-, and I could definitely see this again. Could be recency bias, but I think this movie could age a lot better than some of those 80’s classics. This is a real gem in my opinion, one of the year’s best.

      • It’s just a shame it didn’t do better at the box office. $13 million is a pretty paltry total for such a wonderful film. Glad you enjoyed it. Spread the word!

  2. martin1250 Says:

    i found this film very entertaining as you did. but i found Nadine’s disregard for Erwin to be natural, given her personality. she’s insecure. And Erwin, as likable as he is, did say and do a few things that explained her reactions. Their dynamic was very entertaining. The ferris wheel scene was a laugh out loud moment.

    • Her reaction was natural…but predictable, a word I would not use to describe these characters. They were so well-written and unique. I enjoyed their chemistry together as well.

  3. Looking forward to catching up with this. Another one of those movies with a title that might betray the quality that lies within (a la The Diary of a Teenage Girl). Nice write-up Mark

  4. This was good. Hailee Is quite the actress. She can handle a starring role with ease. Very likable. The nerdy boyfriend was funny and noticeably NOT nerdy. Nerds don’t usually have 6 packs. Lol. I give this 3 1/2 stars.

  5. I got the sense that the teenage struggles in The Edge of Seventeen would be pretty timeless. You’ve confirmed what the trailers indicated to me, that what sets the movie apart is its stark authenticity. I’m happy to hear that the individuals could serve as stock archetypes, but that their personalities are unique and winning. I’ve enjoyed seeing Steinfeld on screen since True Grit, so I’m not surprised to hear that she shines in this role. I’ll have to check it out.

    • This film kind of fell through the cracks with audiences. (Released the same weekend as Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.) It did get some awards consideration, particularly for Hailee Steinfeld’s performance. Well worth your time.

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