The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
Rated – R
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Blake Jenner
Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig
I’m sure this isn’t the first time I’m writing about this, but I love a high school drama that is done well, and The Edge of Seventeen has officially cracked into my list of favorite high school movies of all time. High school is such a complex and confusing time for every teenager to go through. It is where you truly begin on the treacherous journey to find your identity, and through this process you engage in so many new experiences that your head spins out of control. In a nutshell, this is sort of the direction that The Edge of Seventeen goes.
Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) never had much luck in her life as she always lacked the confidence and the physical appearance that her older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), had. But through her lonely childhood, she met a friend whom became her best (and only) friend, Krista. Aside from being socially awkward, Nadine’s family had a tragic turn of events when her father suddenly passes away, leaving the family without the glue that kept them all sane. Come present day, Nadine and Krista are juniors in high school and things seem to be the same. One opening scene has Nadine confessing to her favorite teacher (Woody Harrelson) that she’s going to kill herself, only to be mocked with sarcasm that he is also going to commit suicide because of her complaining. This is the type of relationship they have and it’s an important one for Nadine as the plot moves forward.
As if Nadine’s life wasn’t difficult enough, her life crumbles to a pile of rubble when it’s discovered that her best friend Krista and her brother hooked up and are dating. She is disgusted by her brother and feels betrayed by her only friend and sulks in her room, praying that things will turn around for her. As an adult, it’s easy to roll your eyes at how silly this might all sound, but if you have the ability to put yourself in her shoes it’s not that hard to understand how impactful this situation would be for Nadine. With the pressure of doing well in school, being in a relationship, finding your identity, being popular, and dealing with your parents/family, to put it bluntly life is freaking tough for a teenager. Nadine’s case is no different.
With all of my favorite high school films, this coming-of-age tale truly captures the feeling of high school from the awkward conversations to the sexual tension of newly discovered hormones. What I love about The Edge of Seventeen is how it is seen through the perspective of Nadine, and this makes a huge impact on the film. Hailee Steinfeld is remarkable as Nadine, showing off her true acting chops like she did in True Grit, but this time as a more relatable teenager. I applaud movies that take the risk of fleshing out a plot through the unstable eyes of a troubled protagonist, and Nadine sure is going through a lot to be qualified as troubled. And finally, The Edge of Seventeen is very strong with its tone throughout the entire running time. There is a very good blend of serious moments with comedy to take off the edge, and the right amount of feel-good with feel-bad scenes. Nothing is straight-forward when you’re in high school and The Edge of Seventeen makes sure to remind us all of that. Maybe it’s really not the end of the world if you get that pimple on picture day, or if you get dumped the day before the prom, but for a seventeen-year-old, it might as well be.