The Edge of Seventeen Review
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The high school years make for a seemingly endless well of material for writers. And we all have our favorite books and movies about the topic—from Sixteen Candles to Clueless to Mean Girls. And with her coming-of-age dramedy The Edge of Seventeen, writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig adds her own take on the terrible teens.

The Edge of Seventeen stars Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine, an awkward teenager who’s spent her life in the shadow of her confident, successful older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner). After her dad’s death, Nadine’s best (and only) friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), is the only thing keeping Nadine from total despair. But then Krista starts dating Darian, and everything falls apart. Suddenly angry and alone, Nadine relies on her sarcastic history teacher (Woody Harrelson) and her geeky classmate, Erwin (Hayden Szeto), for friendship and support.

  
 
It’s hard to watch The Edge of Seventeen without comparing it to a John Hughes coming-of-age movie from the ‘80s (in part because the marketing campaign repeatedly forces the comparison). The themes here are pretty familiar, but they’re told in a modern setting. It’s another story of a quirky outsider who’s just trying to survive the trials and tribulations of her horrible high school years. And as Nadine faces one teenage nightmare after another, she nurses a crush on a cute but seemingly unattainable boy and befriends an adorably geeky classmate. Can you guess how it will all work out? Yes, you probably can. But, no matter how predictable it may be—no matter how far you may happen to be removed from your own high school years—you’ll still laugh at the mishaps, the melodrama, and the smart writing of this often bitingly clever tale.

One big difference in this film, however, is its star. Unfortunately, Nadine isn’t Molly Ringwald’s Samantha or Alicia Silverstone’s Cher or Ellen Page’s Juno. Steinfeld has some wonderful moments—but, in general, she just doesn’t have the same charisma as many of the most memorable teen-movie stars. Her edginess and sarcasm often feel forced and unnatural—like she’s the sweet girl next door who’s trying really hard to be tough and cool. And she’s much too pretty to be treated like Darian’s homely little sister.

Fortunately, though, she gets plenty of help from her supporting cast. Hayden Szeto is sweet and bumbling and adorable as Erwin. And Woody Harrelson absolutely steals the film as Nadine’s cynical guardian angel. So in the moments when Steinfeld falters, she still has plenty of backup.

It may not be the unforgettable coming-of-age movie that it seems to promise, but The Edge of Seventeen is smart and sarcastic and sometimes just plain lovable. It’s worth checking out with your own high school besties.


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