From Writer-Director Kelly Fremon Craig comes The Edge of Seventeen, a coming of age dramedy that hedges more on the racier side of things. Does that help the film stand out from other coming of age films or does it fade into the background?
Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is a not so popular high school junior. She is socially awkward and proud of the fact that she doesn’t belong to any cliques. She has one friend in the world, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), and is forever living in the shadow of her far more popular brother, Damian (Blake Jenner). She has a crush on a fellow student, Nick (Alexander Calvert), but is completely oblivious that her classmate Erwin (Hayden Szeto) has a thing for her. Nadine is also constantly at odds with her mother, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick), and forever annoying her history teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), whom she is always confiding in, whether he wants her to or not. However, Nadine’s world is blown apart when Krista and Damian start dating. It is a bridge too far, but without her best friend to anchor her, will she even make it out of high school?
The Edge of Seventeen is a good story about growing up and dealing with issues like loss, interpersonal relationships, and change in general. While I enjoyed the film quite a bit, it never rose to the level of coming of age films like Sing Street or The Perks of Being a Wallflower or even Superbad. I honestly wasn’t prepared for the type of film that awaited me when I saw Edge of Seventeen. I was expecting a far raunchier comedy and was surprised at how much serious drama was covered over the film’s running time. It felt a little bit like a bait and switch from what I had seen of the film leading up to my screening. So, while the film is definitely good, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with what I got. Also, the story is compelling, but I felt that Nadine, who is an intelligent character, makes a couple of stupid moves that felt out of character for her. Almost as if Fremon Craig had to get to a certain place in the narrative and decided to dumb Nadine down a bit to get there. Otherwise, The Edge of Seventeen is a good film.
Hailee Steinfeld is proving to be quite a talented performer. I’ve enjoyed her acting since she made her feature film debut in 2010’s True Grit. She has a knack for both comedy and drama and she is able to flex both sets of muscles in this film. Jenner gives a really nice performance here too. I liked how he wasn’t the standard “asshole brother,” which is a common trope in teen films like this. And while I definitely liked Richardson’s performance, I wanted more of it. The film gets to the crux of the story fairly quickly and we don’t see nearly enough of her. Sedgwick is great as Nadine’s harried mother and I really liked Szeto’s awkward nerd. However, the movie is pretty much stolen by Woody Harrelson, who kills in every scene he’s in. A lot of the comedy comes from Steinfeld and Harrelson’s scenes and a lot of the credit needs to go to the veteran actor.
Overall, I enjoyed The Edge of Seventeen, but I wasn’t wowed by it like I was expecting. It definitely cements Hailee Steinfeld as a great performer and further enhances the legend of Woody Harrelson, but I felt like the tone could have been more stable throughout. If you’re in the mood for a coming of age film, check it out.