It has been a while since the last great teenage film so The Edge of Seventeen is to be welcomed into cinemas. This is also a teen film that doesn’t just depict a bubble-gum, shallow pop happy idyllic version of teen life. This one really delves into the insecurities and problems many teens face, and doesn’t make light of them. It is a rare film to really show the difficulties of growing up, yet does it with helpings of great wit.
This comedy-drama follows high-schooler Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), who makes fun of the popular crowd (which includes her brother, Blake Jenner), hangs around with her best friend all the time (Haley Lu Richardson) and has a complex relationship with her mother (Kyra Sedgwick). However, her world changes as her best friend starts dating her brother and she finds herself alone, seeking the company of her snarky teacher (Woody Harrelson) at lunchtimes.
It is an excellent balance of the serious and the hilarious. Nadine feels real, she is flawed and feels deeply, but is also dependable for some whip-smart dialogue – her interactions with her teacher are especially brilliant – and subsequently she’s someone a lot of people will be able to relate to. Part of the authentic feel comes from the realistic nature of the teen’s language (yes, including a lot of swear words, because that is accurate) and a non-condescending view of them. The film’s pacing helps its balancing act, allowing time to explore the serious matters and Nadine’s life, but is perfectly peppered with lighter moments which keep within the tone.
Steinfeld is excellent as Nadine, giving a complex and raw performance and bringing her character depth, making her stand out amongst the blander stereotypical teens we’re used to seeing. The supporting cast is also great and helps to round out this world. Harrelson is a standout as the sarcastic, yet secretly caring, teacher, providing many of the film’s most entertaining lines.
The film resolves itself in the end in a not-too-cheesy manner, ending more on hope than something perfectly wrapped-up, keeping its feeling of authenticity. It is not a perfect film, but it is incredibly accomplished for Kelly Fremon Craig’s first feature.
Overall, The Edge of Seventeen perfectly pairs raw, real moments with sparkling wit. It is less modern-Hollywood and more John Hughes-esque, but it is still its own entity. It is a refreshingly real look at teenage life and will give people an outlet not provided in other teen films.