The Edge of Seventeen
There's a sad truth in today's state of cinema, besides the over rampant release of constant superhero films: high school flicks are becoming extinct. I remember thinking during the release of last year's The Duff how rare it was to even be seeing a movie set in high school nowadays, and even though that film was incredibly flawed and formulaic it felt refreshing anyway to see this genre film make a reappearance. So hearing about the existence of The Edge of Seventeen, another coming of age high school tale, was encouraging, even though I'm not the biggest fan of Hailee Steinfeld. The advertising brands it as an instant classic and draws comparisons to Clueless and Juno, but is it that good really or are people just desperate to like something from this genre? I definitely think absence has made the heart grow fonder for the genre, but Edge is a pretty solid entry in it...that is, if you had a lonely high school experience similar to main character Nadine.
The story of The Edge of Seventeen is pretty simple. Seventeen-year-old Nadine's life comes crashing down when her only friend in the world Krista starts dating Nadine's older brother with whom she shares an intense sibling rivalry (at least on her side anyway.) After she issues an ultimatum to her BFF she finds herself utterly alone in the depths of teenage sorrow. The one parent who did understand her was taken away prematurely, while the other (played earnestly by Keira Sedgwick) is too consumed with her own pain and drama to try to take on anyone else's' problems. This leaves Nadine with no one else to confide in besides her smart-alecky teacher (played to scene-stealing perfection by Woody Harrelson,) as well as an awkward fellow student who harbors a crush on her. The friendship with both of these males provide the majority of the film's laughs, but are far from the only reason to like The Edge of Seventeen (though the humor IS a certainly one of the film's biggest strengths.)
Before I list the charms of The Edge of Seventeen, let me discuss the flaws in it that might keep people from enjoying it. Similar to The Duff, it's easy to tell that the script is written by someone somewhat removed from the high school scene (though in this case, not nearly as far removed as the screenwriters of The Duff who threw in every social media they could think of possible to try to relate to their audience.) Also similar to the aforementioned Juno, the dialogue seems just a little too adult for a high schooler. The scene where she talks about being an old soul and judging her peers for tweeting about tacos just screams a screenwriter who might be thinking "kids these days!" The difference though between this and The Duff, is that the underlying emotions here come off as incredibly genuine and from a sincerely authentic place. Then there's our main character. Nadine isn't entirely likable, but the charm of her is that she'd be the first one to admit that. Her insecurities are relatable and make her seem like a character who is really made out of flesh and blood. She can most definitely be really annoying, but characters this lived in are incredibly refreshing. She wants to change, she wants to grow....she just doesn't know how. Not only is she real, but her experiences seem real. There isn't some gimmicky plot that helps her come of age, it's just life. As such, Edge of Seventeen is a very slice of life type film....and your patience for it might depend how much you enjoy that type of film.
The Edge of Seventeen is an enjoyable film that's made with a lot of care. It would be easy for most people to enjoy it on the most basic level and deceptively see it as simple. But for me, I really connected with this film on a very personal basis. The feelings portrayed in Seventeen are intense and real and took me back to my own sometimes incredibly lonely teenage experience. Though it has its calculated quirks, I just felt very much that this story came from a very real place....a place where I've been before. As a result, I can't help but kind of love this film. RATING: 8.5/10