By DANIELLA RAPPARPORT
The Edge of Seventeen, an R-rated coming-of-age film directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, is exactly what teen audiences have been waiting for. It is not just a “teen movie”; it is raw, awkward and sometimes too hard to watch. Starring Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine, an antisocial high school junior, the story follows her dealing with the bitter truth that life is not fair.
The conflict of the film unravels when Nadine discovers her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) and brother Darian (Blake Jenner) are together. It probably would not be that big of a blow, if her best friend was not her only friend and brother was not her greatest enemy. It is cliché, but Nadine delivers her betrayal so well that the story appears unique and different. There is a touch of comedy in the melodrama of the situation. After Nadine finds out, she and Krista go to McDonald’s to talk it out. Instead of resolving the problem, Nadine impulsively throws her shoe across the room in a rage and asks Krista, “What if I liked your dad?”
From there, it only gets worse. Nadine makes a villain of her brother and tells Krista she cannot have them both. She either leaves Darian or Nadine will leave her. The fallout leaves Nadine friendless and unconvinced of the truth that she is doing this all to herself.
Nadine then spends her lunches with her sarcastic and seemingly uncaring history teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson). Her father had died years before, leaving Nadine always butting heads with her narcissistic mother (Kyra Sedgwick). Nadine’s relationship with Mr. Bruner is the closest to a parental relationship in the film, and she confides in him when she feels like she has no one else to turn to. In one of the funniest scenes in the film, Nadine shares a horrifying text she accidently sent to her delinquent crush Nick (Alexander Calvert), part of the message including, “We can do it in the Petland stockroom.”
All the while Erwin (Hayden Szeto), the awkward Korean-American boy (and only non-white character in the film) who can not seem to form a sentence around her, is being left in the dust. They somehow end up on a series of sort-of dates, one including an awkward attempt to kiss on a Ferris wheel that ends with Erwin begging the technician to let them off.
Everything in The Edge of Seventeen seems a little cliché and predictable, like the golden boy brother and girl next door best friend, witty conversations with the grumpy teacher, a widowed serial dating mother and a bad boy crush who makes the protagonist forget about the nice guy who is there all along. However, every character is more than they seem with their own original layers that Kelly Fremon Craig and the actors masterfully unravel in about two hours.
Nadine is selfish, impulsive and lonely. Steinfeld plays her so well that it causes viewers to hate her actions but sympathize with her pain at the same time. One of the saddest moments of the film is when Nadine admits to her brother, “I think some deranged part of me likes to think I’m the only one with problems, like it makes me special.”
The Edge of Seventeen captures angst in high school with a perfect balance of comedy added in. It holds its own against other movies of its kind and can be compared to the great John Hughes films of the 90s. Like Hughes’s cult classic films such as The Breakfast Club, the film is more than just predictable. It is a charming and emotional film that every high schooler can relate to on some level.