STX Entertainment (2016)

 

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

 

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto

Don’t put on The Edge of Seventeen and expect a standard teen “coming of age” story, complete with colourful on screen graphics, natty voiceovers, Spotify playlist and Ellen Page hipsterness - thankfully director Kelly Fremon Craig avoids the pitfalls encountered by many similar flicks, eschewing modern gimmicks for greater realism and resonance.

 

What we have is a laser sharp portrayal of a young teen (seventeen years old, had you not have guessed) swamped by emotions, temperament, resentment and yes, hormones. The story we follow is a journey with her as she struggles with life as one event unfolds after another.

As we all know, when you’re young any kind of setback is the end of the world, and here we see a fine representation of this without ever feeling the need to fall into gimmicky territory. Is this really life apocalypse, or just the start of growing up?

 

Nadine (played by a scintillating Hailee Steinfeld) is, simply put, a torment to those around her. At no point during the film is Nadine presented as anything else, or at least for the most part, but at the same time, through the vulnerability and cruelty shines intelligence and a desire for something more. It’s these qualities that keep Nadine grounded and more…real. She’s like the sun swathed in black clouds.

 

As mentioned Steinfeld is brilliant as our lead and her range of emotions probably echo what lots of teens were feeling at that time of their lives. One of the top performances of 2016. Though this is absolutely Steinfeld’s movie, the strong supporting cast provide the foundations for the story to blossom. Haley Lu Richardson is strong as the more grounded friend, Blake Jenner has incredibly white teeth and a strong jaw, and seems genuinely nice. Woody Harrelson is understated and wonderful as Nadine’s teacher, who refuses to be drawn into her gloom and fights fire with fire, though it’s apparent he secretly thinks she’s great. The interactions between the two provide some of the movie’s stronger moments. Also, Hayden Szeto is great as Erwin, the socially awkward yet endearing teen with eyes for Nadine.

 

The dialogue throughout the movie is sharp and authentic, as is the representation of the characters (possibly subverted in some cases?) Though Nadine’s brother, Darian, is the All-American popular kid, he isn’t perceived as a dick. There are no snotty cheerleaders or stuffy teachers filling the screen, Erwin isn’t a highly intellectual, thick glasses wearing Asian stereotype, nope he’s shown as NORMAL. It’s up to Nadine to address the stereotypes, and the other characters to politely rebuff her naivety. It is these decisions that keep the movie on the right path. The Edge of Seventeen rolls along at a natural pace and never threatens to run away with itself. The only slight criticism is that the turn at the end may have been realised very quickly, but that’s minor.

 

Genuine, fun and rewarding, The movie provides a wonderful look into that most terrifying of times – growing up. Never gimmicky, always earnest and viciously entertaining, The Edge of Seventeen is a superb movie driven by a stellar lead, great supporting cast and is destined to be a teen movie classic.

 

Just for God’s sake, be careful when sending dirty messages to people you don’t know…

March 31st 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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