“I think we both know what needs to be said right now.. Get out of the car”
Everyone knows that growing up is hard, and life is no easier for high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), who is already at peak awkwardness when her all-star older brother Darian (Blake Jenner) starts dating her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). All at once, Nadine feels more alone than ever, until an unexpected friendship with a thoughtful teen (Hayden Szeto) gives her a glimmer of hope that things just might not be so terrible after all.
The classic coming of age story is the golden goose in Hollywood. Everyone loves a tale of teenage angst, or the innocence of adolescence. So while, director Kelly Fremon Craig doesn’t deliver anything distinctly unique with her new film Edge of Seventeen, she does manage to capture the overdramatic trepidation of a generation perfectly. Edge of Seventeen stands toe to toe with similar films that elevated the genre like Stand By Me and Perks of Being A Wallflower. This plays like a millennial John Hughes film, similar to last years Dope. It has all the emotional resonance, with a hefty dose of perfectly timed humor. Following Nadine as she deals with insecurity in the wake of tragedy, and impending loneliness in the most awkward ways possible.
Hailee Steinfeld captivated audiences with her dutiful and compelling performance in True Grit. She gave us the promise of incredible talent, and her role as Nadine, has made good on that promise. Able to navigate the complexity of the teenage psyche on the verge of complete mental disintegration, Steinfeld delivers an undeniable performance that garners sympathy, while also being abrasive. Fremon Craig’s feature debut is one that provides heartfelt and comedic insight into the perils of growing up an imperfect, and at times petulant, teenage girl. It’s a hyperbolic small scale melodrama surrounding the crumbing world of a privileged white teenager who implodes when her only real friend, starts dating her brother. It’s a cynical comedy that makes light of the fact that these are truly first world problems, but also doesn’t shy away from the idea that these problems still matter. They still exist, and while it’s all well and good to poke fun at them, it’s important to develop perspective to understand why it’s so absurd.
The performances carry this film, aggrandizing an ordinary story about regular middle class people, led by Steinfeld, who turns in the perfect rendition. The amount of depth and range needed to endear someone as insufferable as Nadine to the audience is unprecedented. She truly is one obnoxious and annoying teenager, but you never feel put off by her acerbic personality, and instead the humor keeps things just light enough to provoke a poignant connection. Woody Harrelson’s epic and morbidly sardonic teacher is literally the perfect contrast to the rest of the characters. He is the satirical blanket that coats the film, and his deft comedic delivery is what allows us to take a breath from all the dramatic incongruity. Kyra Sedgwick is the perfect juxtaposition to Harrelson. The two share zero screen time, but she’s the yang to his yin. Playing Nadine’s self absorbed mother, she is just manic enough to present believability, but also earnestly sincere in her inner turmoil. Blake Jenner’s turn as Darian could have easily been a two dimensional thoughtless knuckle dragger, but Fremon Craig refuses to allow any character to be heavily saddled with ridiculous tropes. He brings a quiet dissonance and complexity to the role, and captures the – caught in the middle dynamic, with precision.
The story isn’t exactly innovative, but it’s still extremely perceptive, and highly intelligent. Creating a unique and eclectic mix of humor and dramatics that juxtapose one another with an unadulterated grace. It’s the subtleties and nuances that make this movie what it is, which is a perfect coming of age romp. The fast paced dialogue and quick wit only add to the fun, and are the elements of the film that create the very reality that these characters reside. It all feels surreal, but in the way that it perfectly captures contemporary teenage angst.
Edge of Seventeen is a beautifully comedic vision surrounding the Kerouac-ian journey inside the mind of the contemporary privileged white teenager. This is an excellent mix emotional resilience, and contemptuous humor that is intelligently subversive. Steinfeld skips over all of the holes and trappings of cliched girl power moments to display a raw and sincere authenticity. This is an honest approach to the coming of age story that instills confidence in the teenage dramedy once more. With a cast that all share an incredible chemistry, a story that is funny, intelligent, endearing, thoughtful, and ardently candid. Kelly Fremon Craig has carved out her own niche, by abandoning the stiff formulaic nonsense that has preceded her entry. This is an delightfully awkward story of relationships, and inherent relatability to the very real, very edgy, very tragic, and very three dimensional characters. For a directorial debut, Edge of Seventeen is an absolutely fantastic introduction, that reinvigorates an entire genre, and etches itself amongst classic contemporary teen melodramas.
4.30/5 EPIC BRO