Monday, November 21, 2016

The Edge of Seventeen

Review by Bob Ignizio

At the point in time we meet Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), the protagonist of THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, high school has most definitely not been the best years of her life. She's awkward, only has one friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), and her dad, the one family member that seemed to understand her, died just a few years prior. Nadine still isn't over the loss, and neither is her mom Mona (Kyra Sedgwick), kind of a hot mess who leans heavily on Nadine's popular and self-confident brother Darian (Blake Jenner).

Things only get worse. When Krista and Darian start dating, Nadine is so upset she ends their friendship. As for Nadine's own romantic prospects, they aren't promising. She has an unrequited crush on Nick (Alexander Calvert), but he couldn't be less interested. Meanwhile nerdy but nice Erwin (Hayden Szeto) would seem to be a perfect match, but Nadine keeps putting him in the friend zone. The only person she has to talk about any of this is her sarcastic teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson). Will Nadine manage to mend friendships, fix her family, and find love before the end titles scroll?

There are a lot of teen movie tropes contained in that synopsis, but THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN manages to assemble them in a way that feels relatively fresh. Perhaps just as importantly, it feels believable. Nadine could easily have been written or played as overly quirky, but writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig has written her largely without distracting affectations, and Steinfeld plays her in a naturalistic way. Even at her most self-sabotaging and self-centered, Nadine remains likeable, and anyone who was themselves an awkward teen (male or female) will likely relate to much of what she goes through in this film.

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN walks up to the edge of some potentially disturbing material, notably a scene that feels like it could turn into a date rape. That it doesn't go all the way and address the issues directly may be seen as "playing it safe" by some, but keeping things light while still showing the potential for something bad to happen feels right in this case. Rather than tackling a weighty social issue in the way JUNO addressed teen pregnancy, EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is more concerned with showing how the mundane problems of teenage life can seem just as weighty to those dealing with them. Even if sometimes all it takes to solve those problems is to be a little less self-absorbed, and to realize that other people have feelings, too. 3 ½ out of 4 stars.

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