“The Edge of Seventeen” (2016)
We see Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) swiftly walk down her high school hallway to Mr. Bruner’s (Woody Harrelson) classroom, then plops down in front of his desk as she dramatically proclaims “I am going to kill myself. I just thought that an adult should know.” Mr. Bruner tells her that he wishes he knew what to say, then proceeds to tell her that he has written his own suicide note. He begins to read the note which talks about his only fleeting minutes of happiness during his lunch period is taken up every day by the same badly dressed student.
It seems that Nadine has always been the fish out of water type of person, the painfully awkward girl who just doesn’t fit in anywhere, including her family. As she puts it “There are two types of people in the world; the people who radiate confidence and naturally excel at life, and the people that hope all those people did in a big explosion.” Nadine’s lives with her mother, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick), who has never gotten over her divorce and hijacks any conversation to turn it into talking about how horrible her life is. Also at the house is Nadine’s older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), an all-American kid who is the star athlete, who happens to be the most popular boy in school.
Nadine is all alone in this world, except for her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). They have been friends since early childhood when the two became inseparable. Krista talked Nadine off the ledge when Nadine got a hairstyle that made her look like Pedro from the film Napoleon Dynamite. Nadine has never been on a date, but has a crush on bad boy Nick (Alexander Calvert), who she thinks has gotten hotter since he got out of “juvie.” Little does Nadine recognize that there is a guy interested in her, Erwin (Hayden Szeto), who happens to have a big crush on Nadine but is extremely bad at small talk.
When Mona goes on a weekend getaway with her latest boyfriend, Nadine and Krista see this as a perfect time to have girl time, drink, dance and talk about boys. That’s all ruined with Darian brings over some of his high school buddies to have a pool party. It’s not your run of the mill party, rather a pivotal point that will has the possibility to alter Krista and Nadine’s lives and possibly change their friendship forever.
Writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig brings us the adolescent adventures of Nadine in the hilarious and smart The Edge of Seventeen. Many filmmakers have tried to document the hardship of the awkward teenage years of young women who just don’t quite fit in. Juno, Kings of Summer, Ghost World, Spectacular Now and of course, Sixteen Candles immediately comes to mind. This film is their equal with smart writing, quick dialogue and superb performances, especially from Hailee Seinfeld and Woody Harrelson.
Craig never lets us feel sorry for Nadine because most of her problems are directly due to her defeatist attitude and her incredibly bad choices. While we don’t feel sorry for her, we ultimately root for her to find a place in the world that contains the happiness that seemingly is just out of reach. Nadine must figure out that the world, God and her family aren’t secretly plotting her downfall; it’s just life, and we all must plow through it. Craig also gives Nadine that sense of self-awareness. She knows she is acting aloof at a party and gives herself a pep talk in the bathroom mirror “Don’t be so weird. Go talk to people.” Nadine knows what needs to be done; she just hasn’t figured out all the steps to get herself there.
I have been a fan of Hailee Steinfeld since she burst onto the scene in 2010 as Mattie Ross in the Coen brothers True Grit. She is dazzling in this film, commanding the screen, even when with scene-stealers such as Sedgwick and Harrelson. She embodies this role so completely that we fully believe that Nadine is as socially awkward girl who is just a little “weird.” Steinfeld’s scenes with Harrelson are some of the best of the film. They work well off each other, Steinfeld as the frustrated teen who just wants answers and the teacher who isn’t about to spoon feed them to her. Harrelson is brilliant in the film, being the just-right amount of sass combined with a deep down compassion for Nadine. Sedgwick is up to the task of the mom who doesn’t know how to relate to her daughter because it’s much easier to rely upon and relate to her “perfect” son. Jenner, hot off his winning performance in Everybody Wants Some, has a couple of scenes with Steinfeld that stand out and make this film more than just an ordinary teen comedy. Hayden Szeto is fantastic as the nice guy, who will take the few crumbs that Nadine throws his way and hopes that someday she will wake up and notice him. Szeto has a beautiful comedic style and makes us fall in love with his shy, but resilient character.
The Edge of Seventeen is a teen coming of age comedy that feels real. I had so much fun watching this film that I wouldn’t mind spending a day or two hanging out with these characters, even if meant going through the pain of attending high school all over again. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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