High school is more or less a bizarre part of life for most people, and Kelly Fremon Craig captures a slice of it with The Edge of Seventeen. The film follows Nadine, a sarcastic junior that doesn’t fit in who has an all-star older brother named Darian that starts dating her best friend. It seems like another teen movie, but thankfully, it’s a character study about a teen. The Edge of Seventeen stars Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, and Blake Jenner.
We’ve all seen plenty of coming-of-age dramedies, so a fresh take on the genre is a bit of a task. Kelly Fremon Craig writes and directs this film with care, creating an entertaining and genuine film. The script is a sharp, modern take on the coming-of-age films that John Hughes has given to us plenty of times before. It’s often times hilarious and even painfully awkward, which best describes the later years of high school. Nadine is an oddball that isn’t cinematically quirky, but realistically humorous and cynical. The script revolves around Nadine fitting in, which is a big thing in high school, yet still a “thing” in adulthood in one way or another. Although the script is exceptional, we know where all the characters are going to end up. This film reminds you of that teenage mindset and those peculiar years, and does so through a set of entertaining performances.
Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine, a young girl with a case of teen angst. She’s a live wire with an old soul that’s frustrated with the way her life is just a series of failures. Steinfeld is fantastic at capturing the confusion of a teenager that is hitting the necessary roadblocks to grow. She’s naturally funny, annoying, and quite real. Steinfeld makes this flawed character relative, especially in her awkward situations. You’ve either felt her pain before, or know a couple of people that have.
There are plenty of solid supporting performances, but Woody Harrelson as Mr. Bruner, Nadine’s less than stellar teacher, is a scene stealer. If you could go back and talk to yourself as a teen, what would you say? Mr. Bruner is that voice of sarcasm. Harrelson’s character says everything you want to say to Nadine, creating hilarious scenes. Kyra Sedgwick also gives a grounded performance as Mona, Nadine’s mom, and Blake Jenner as Darian, Nadine’s brother, does fine as well. Hayden Szeto, playing Erwin, Nadine’s classmate that has a crush on her, is wonderfully odd. Everyone looks and acts like modern day teens, making this film feel even more authentic.
The Edge of Seventeen goes through some of the check points of a coming-of-age film, but it stands out because of how real the interaction with those check points feel. Steinfeld shines bright, and the rest of the cast is fantastic. The film really captures the feeling of being a teen lost in the ambiguity of high school today, where social media makes teen life a new type of awkward.