Review: The Edge of Seventeen

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Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig

Written by: Kelly Fremon Craig

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson

Rating: [4/5]

Support systems make an incredible difference in the success of any young person growing up. With the changes that naturally occur in the adolescent years, every moment can seem life-changing. The Edge of Seventeen creates the landscape for a truly human depiction of the teenage experience.

Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) never really made many friends except for Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). Since meeting at a young age, they have been together as sisters. Everything else around her could not be more aggravating to her. The balance she has built gets challenged when Krista begins to date Nadine’s brother, who she happens to loathe. 

It’s great to see such a singular experience that can relate to many others with how they grow up. Even when living different lives, there just happens to be some events or experiences that almost every teenager goes through. Almost like a tradition of the American teenager. Whether it be the awkwardness of high school or having to manage friend groups that can change incredibly quickly. In between all of the anxiety is where we find Nadine, as she believes herself to be an old soul amongst a generation that cannot get off their phone. She refuses to get along with most that don’t happen to be Krista. Nadine embodies a type of prickliness built form years of having to put up her guard from the different circumstances life has brought to her. It becomes something she must learn how to navigate in this feature. 

In the lead role, Hailee Steinfeld puts together a great performance with how she blended the real pain that ails this character along with the harsh comedy she provides. Unafraid to be graphic in how she talks, Nadine feels like a real teenager who says vulgar things to get a reaction out of others more than anything else. A star-making role for her that allows her to work with the complexities of a character like Nadine. She paired exceptionally well with Woody Harrelson, who portrayed Nadine’s high school teacher. Their back and forth throughout the film provided the best comedic moments but also the most heartwarming. The sarcasm they would exchange may seem harsh on the outside but internally has a strong sense of care that borders on admiration. The narrative begins with an interaction between them, and the greatest moments of the film take place when they share the screen. Also wanted to give a shoutout to Haley Lu Richardson, who portrayed Krista. One of my favorite young actors, who did not have much material in this story, but still shined a bright light in that time. 

The strength of the feature comes from the performances, but also the screenplay. It’s one that arrives with such beautiful braveness and an understanding of pain. The teenage impulsive attitude may seem foreign to those who have aged out, but it makes complete sense with Nadine. She makes decisions that would seem to be irrational, but track with the pain she has endured and how quickly the world around her can crumble. Writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig brings that with the screenplay with just how prevailingly selfish teenagers may seem in their worldview. We have all been there in one way or another, just through different circumstances. It allows this story to have far-reaching resonance. 

As with all of these teenage stories that focus on white suburbia, the issues come across as real first-world problems. For as much as Nadine struggles emotionally and relationally, she lives in a great house with an amazing pool. She has never probably been left wanting for any material possessions. Some of the issues could make you want to give a hefty eye roll, but it undoubtedly captures a singular experience. 

While the screenplay balances the comedy and drama incredibly well, I was left slightly disappointed by the end of the film. One where it had a thematic throughline but one that did not feel very satisfying. It comes from the self-efficacy of the characters and what eventually fulfills them in the end. The ending opens up comparisons with something like Lady Bird, which I believe manages the theme and lesson of its story with much more precision and care. I only compare the two because of the discourse stating which one was the greatest coming-of-age film in the 2010s.

Heartfelt and comedic, The Edge of Seventeen will drag out your worst insecurities for all to see. It creates a nightmarish scenario for our protagonist as she attempts to navigate a life where all of her support systems crumble around her. The one she expected the least from provided the most for her, which unsurprisingly was a teacher.

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