Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is a teenage girl who feels likes an outcast. She only has one friend, Krista (Hayley Lu Richardson), and has difficulty with both her perfect brother Darian (Blake Jenner) and her neurotic mother (Kyra Sedgwick). Things seem to be getting even worse when she walks in on Krista and Darian in bed, leading to a complete breakdown in her relationship with both her best friend and her brother.
As her social awkwardness and desperation intensifies – including a difficult situation involving a hot guy and a sext – she may be overlooking something good with a boy who’s interested in her, but who she doesn’t really see in a romantic light.
The Edge Of Seventeen has an impressive 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, something almost unheard of for a teen flick. However, I can’t help feeling it wouldn’t have gotten half that score were it not for the great performance from Hailee Steinfeld in the central role.
She is terrific, taking a character who could have easily been intensely annoying and utterly selfish, and making her empathetic and understandable. Indeed, she’s almost a little too good, as when it gets towards the end and she has to learn a few lessons to make her see the world differently, the film rather sidesteps the fact that it’s not all her own fault, and that maybe a few other people have some lessons to learn too. In fact, after the complexity of this comedic portrait of teen angst and confusion, the way it tries to neatly wrap bows onto several aspects of the plot comes across as a little convenient and far more stereotypical than what’s gone before.
For much of the film, it feels like one of Nadine’s main issues is that no one is actually listening to what she says. Admittedly it is hidden under a lot of her teen drama and angst, but she has some valid points to make. The end though doesn’t really feel like it’s engaging with those points, largely because they’re too messy to tie up neatly.
This sleight of hand over the issues its been dealing with – particularly how a few lines from Darian are meant to make us forget that he’s been a bit a tool for the rest of the movie, and that Nadine should suddenly completely forgive him – means unfortunately I can’t be as glowing as most other reviews have. That’s not to say that The Edge Of Seventeen is a total loss. The film is funny, and as mentioned, Steinfeld is tremendous.
Woody Harrelson also has great fun as a teacher who isn’t taking any of Nadine’s crap and seems weary of dealing with her – and certainly isn’t going to talk to her in the way teachers are meant to – but who becomes a key source of support for her.
Much of the movie is fun, and again partially thanks to Steinfeld it does a great job of pulling you into the awkwardness, emotional confusion and social ineptitude that often feels so acute during teenage years. The film manages to do it with humour and wit, as well as the ability to make you cringe at times, when Nadine is doing things that many teens do – particularly nowadays – but which you know is bound to turn out terribly. As many have pointed out, there are more than a few shades of John Hughes’ 80s teen comedies, and writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig certainly seems to use them as a touchstone, while bringing things up to date for a movie set in the world of smartphones.
It’s an entertaining watch and one that’s worth spending some time with. It’s just a shame that when it gets to the end, it rather underserves the central character and her journey.
Overall Verdict: A superb performance from Hailee Steinfeld, plenty of wit and a great insight into life as a socially awkward teen, which slightly frustrates by taking an easy route towards the end, that ignores the truth of some of what’s gone before.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac