The Edge of Seventeen
Kelly Fremon Craig's The Edge of Seventeen is a well-written, if not slightly over-ambitious piece of coming-of-age drama that works well because of Hailee Steinfeld's effectively honest performance and Woody Harrelson's on-point comedic timing. It's a messy, but fun little film.
Kelly Fremon Craig‘s The Edge of Seventeen is an oddball coming-of-age film that focuses more on brutal honesty than simply trying to entertain the youth of today’s world. It’s an R-rated take on the complicated life of a teenage girl that’s going through more than one life dilemma. It’s an honest film that’s scattered with real emotion, real comedy and real tragedy — all balled up into one messy film that’s admirable, but not perfect.
Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is a complicated individual. She doesn’t really have a lot of friends and she’s got some severe self-esteem issues. The closest person she can vent to is in the form of her teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) and even he gets sick of her constant ranting.
But he listens, because he understands that Nadine is going through a lot and that she’ll hopefully figure things out in the end.
The Edge of Seventeen follows Nadine as she faces several life obstacles over her teenage years, primarily focusing on a falling out between her and her best friend — who has decided to start dating her older brother.
This, mixed with the passing of her father and general disliking of her mother — leaves Nadine in a socially awkward spot that forces her to branch out and attempt to piece back together the uneven pieces of her own puzzle known as life.
It’s a messy film, because teenagers live messy lives. We’ve all been there. We know what it’s like when one small life event feels like a world-ending game-changer. Maybe some of us haven’t quite experienced the extremes of Nadine’s own personal life struggles, but I’m sure others have and we can all relate to them.
And that’s what makes Kelly Fremon Craig‘s writing and directing a cornerstone to the success of the film, despite its shortcomings and over-abundance of quirk.
Craig’s script is sometimes a little too brutally honest and depressing, yet it works, because it makes way for some of the film’s stronger comedic bits.
Nadine isn’t exactly a likable character, which is where I had most of my problems with the film. I could understand her feeling of loneliness and of feeling out of place in such a weird and bizarre world, but I couldn’t get behind her general lack of respect towards basically everyone in her life.
The writing presents this as quirkiness and oddball humor, but the reveal makes Nadine come off as a slight asshole that’s more than hypocritical.
And that’s okay, because the film functions just fine under those assumptions quite well.
That’s mostly because of star Hailee Steinfeld and her ability to deliver a career-best performance since she stole the show in True Grit.
Finally, Steinfeld is given a complex individual to really sink her teeth into. She creates a three-dimensional character out of Nadine and somehow manages to make you feel for her, despite the remarks I made earlier about the character. This is because she’s an excellent actress that understands how to best capture the inner-functions of what truly goes on inside a teenager’s head.
It’s often a bit of a jumbled mess, but it’s also that of a bright young individual simply finding their way and forming themselves into adulthood.
Another highlight performance of the film is that of Woody Harrelson‘s character. Harrelson manages to make Mr. Bruner the most explosive element of the film, always encouraging Nadine and offering up hefty amounts of sarcastic advice. He’s also not afraid to fire back at her smart remarks and downright inappropriate behavior in a way that’s never condescending and instead accepting and guiding.
His character may not be the sole focus of the film, but he’s definitely the driving factor of change for Nadine as she faces one shitty situation after another.
Many are celebrating The Edge of Seventeen as one of the year’s best and freshest films and I don’t exactly agree with those comments.
It is a good film and a rare one that manages to capture the heart and soul of what a true coming-of-age story is without filter, but it’s also one that loses its grab on Nadine as she constantly makes awful decisions one after another. I get that the point of the film is precisely that, but it’s extremely hard to “feel” for a character that possesses very few likable traits.
Still, The Edge of Seventeen is a worthwhile viewing, because of its performances and because of its ability to harness truth and awkwardness in a way that feels authentic and lived in.