I have little patience with Hollywood comedy dramas (understatement), but I have been known to enjoy indie comedy dramas, especially if they’re quirky. The Edge of Seventeen is only slightly quirky but it’s a delight to watch, for some surprising reasons.
Not surprising is that Hailee Steinfeld would be phenomenal in the lead role as seventeen-year-old Nadine Franklin, because she’s one of the great young actors out there. Nadine has a serious inferiority complex, believing for most of her school years that almost no one likes her. She does have a best friend (Krista, played by Haley Lu Richardson), though, and the boy next to her in history class (Erwin, played by Hayden Szeto) seems to have a crush on her. But Nadine isn’t interested in the nerdy Erwin; she has a crush on Nick, a mysterious senior whom she has never met. At home, meanwhile, Nadine has to suffer with a mother (Kyra Sedgwick) dealing with her own anxieties who has struggled with Nadine all her life while adoring her perfect handsome son, Darian, whom Nadine loathes as a result.
When Krista starts dating Darian, Nadine is furious. Not for the first time, she runs to Mr. Bruner, her history teacher (Woody Harrelson) and vents to him about her problems and depression. And that’s enough about the plot.
The story of The Edge of Seventeen isn’t particularly original. Indeed, it feels all too normal, which is possibly the film’s greatest strength. There is a remarkable sense of authenticity to Kelly Fremon Craig’s intelligent screenplay (she also directed) and each of us who viewed it was able to identify with one character or another. And while the language and situations can seem very ‘out there’ at times (certainly not something you would hear a seventeen-year-old girl say in films made in the last century), the film possesses an innocence I much admired.
I was occasionally disappointed by the predictability of certain scenes and characters, but just as often I was surprised by how some scenes and characters defied predictability. And the ending is not something I would have predicted for this kind of film. In other coming-of-age films, the ending wouldn’t have worked for me, but it did here.
Harrelson was perfect in his role and the rest of the acting was solid. The cinematography and music were well-done. All-in-all, a great debut film for Fremon Craig. The Edge of Seventeen gets a solid ***+ (others in my family awarded it ****). My mug is up and this one is highly recommended to most readers (it’s rated R for a reason).