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The Edge of Seventeen – Movie Review

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The Edge of Seventeen – Movie Review

Rating: A (Fantastic)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy VVS Films

Teenagers can be fairly quick at telling when a film presents an unrealistic depiction of them, opting merely for crass gags and starring actors who look like they graduated ten years ago. That’s partly why John Hughes’s teen yarns continue to resonate today and The Edge of Seventeen falls into his wheelhouse, while also presenting the unique vision of first-time director Kelly Fremon Craig. Her smart screenplay calls to mind Juno in its depiction of real teenagers facing a multitude of actual problems and neurosis. As headlined by an excellent performance from Hailee Steinfeld, so much of the joy of this film comes from Nadine’s frustrations and biting humour at what she perceives as the difficult life she leads.

The dialogue immediately has a snappy quality and Steinfeld is the perfect choice to showcase Craig’s sense of humour. The pop-culture references she occasionally indulges in are a natural part of a character who is frequently wearing clothes from thirty years ago and at one point listens to the Magnolia soundtrack. Craig has created an entire personality for Nadine that gives insight into how she perceives life and why she makes certain decisions. Flashbacks shown early on also develop Nadine in ways that do not feel expository and function in showing her emotional response to her friend and family’s actions. Steinfeld brings a genuineness to the role with the proper facial expressions that either elicit laughter or warmth.

Nadine’s relationship with other people is a major theme of The Edge of Seventeen and her behaviour seems to shift depending on her mood. Some of the more humourous scenes come from her interactions with history teacher Mr. Bruner. Woody Harrelson never feels like stunt casting, just to add another well established actor to the ensemble. It’s an unusual student-teacher friendship, but one that is believable when one remembers their favourite teachers. Nadine’s feeling of betrayal with her best friend is understandable within the context of their scenes together and Craig jumps smoothly between the comedy of the situation they find themselves in and the heartbreak when this friendship falters. The platonic relationship Nadine forms with classmate Erwin also goes through some nicely written ups, downs and confusions.

Nadine may be the lead character and the one we have the most sympathy towards, but the film is not afraid of showing how difficult teenagers can be. When thinking back to one’s high school years, it’s easy to cringe at some of the stupid decisions one makes and The Edge of Seventeen portrays some of those moments without flinching. Many teenage girls will probably see a lot of themselves in Nadine, including the frustrations she shares with her mother and the nervousness at talking to a crush. When the film employs more crude humour, it’s not done for the sake of shock, but also to show the tendency of youth to think before speaking.

The Edge of Seventeen will absolutely become a classic for teenagers. It will be the sort of film they will watch multiple times, alongside the likes of The Breakfast Club, Juno and Easy A. It takes a certain amount of inspiration from those aforementioned films, but a new voice also emerges from Kelly Fremon Craig. With her directing debut, she instantly becomes a filmmaker to watch for. The screenplay she has penned is filled with winning humour and dialogue, a sadness that never comes close to schmaltzy and real situations made more engaging by its three-dimensional characters. The casting of Hailee Steinfeld is an added stroke of genius as she inhabits the role of Nadine perfectly, showing her break-out role in True Grit six years ago was no fluke. There is a lot to embrace and fall in love with in The Edge of Seventeen.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison