Every since the 1980s, awkward coming of age films have been dominated by stories of boys looking to bed that dream girl in his high school, overcoming that bully or striving for independence from his overbearing parents. Rarely did we see this type of film from the other gender, aside from the iconic John Hughes written films Pretty In Pink and Sixteen Candles, which feel very clean by today’s standards. This is the reason why The Edge Of Seventeen feels like such a breath of fresh air in a genre that has become stale on the male front, by films like American Pie and its ilk. Writer Kelly Fremon Craig makes her directorial debut with a film that has the potential to be just as memorable as those Molly Ringwald movies.
The film follows Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), a teen in the awkward phase of life, always showing off that chip she has on her shoulder. She has always had a contemptuous relationship with her seemingly perfect brother, played by Blake Jenner, and a power tug of war with her mother (Kyra Sedgwick). When her father passes away, Nadine’s chip grows more and more, distancing herself further from the rest of her family. Then, to make matters worse, Nadine’s only friend Krista starts to date her brother, driving a wedge in the only good relationship that she has. At only seventeen years old, life is looking horrible for Nadine but maybe putting some effort in the bad boy she has a crush on in school could solve her problems.
This film is easily one of my favorites of this year. Craig’s fresh and hilarious script rolls so well off the tongues of Steinfeld and company, and while it’s a bit pop culture heightened, it has so many moments of pure brilliance coupled with a deep and real heart. The film is almost completely stolen by newcomer and Vancouverite Hayden Szeto, who plays Erwin, a nervous classmate with a thing for Nadine, and Woody Harrelson as her teacher and unwilling confidant. With so many great performances in The Edge Of Seventeen, the rewatch value of this movie is almost infinite. I may just call this one my new Juno, as I watched that one a lot.
It’s probably safe to say that we adults in the first world have been in a situation similar to Nadine’s, thinking that the world was just conspiring to make us miserable. We know that it will eventually clear up to make way for the real problems, adult life, so The Edge Of Seventeen is a funny reminder of those “terrible times” that seem so moot in retrospect. For the young crowd, this film will speak to you on your level and not down to you like a bunch of producers are conspiring to get you to buy a can of Coke. In a world of corporate and societal massaging, The Edge Of Seventeen is a great reminder that you can still find some truth and catharsis in the world of cinema. 5/5