Open, honest and awkwardly charming – what’s not to love about The Edge of Seventeen?
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The coming-of-age teen comedy genre is not short of memorable movies filled with delightful characters; most notably, John Hughes’ 80s catalogue is held in high regard to this day. Well, you can go right ahead and add Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen to the list. It’s got everything you could want and need, with all the maudlin bits expertly sliced out to leave behind a tight and sharp film with brilliant writing and some even better performances.
Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is a bang average student struggling to find her place in the social hierarchy of high school. With her loyal BFF Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) by her side, Nadine has settled into being one of those snarky outsiders with a penchant for sardonic wit, Converse sneakers and baggy sweaters. Her world gets flipped upside down when Krista drunkenly decides to hook up with Nadine’s older brother Darian (Blake Jenner), an action that forces the two apart. Disenchanted and alone, Nadine seeks comfort in the seedy arms of Nick (Alexander Calvert), but doesn’t realise that dorky friendzone dweller Erwin (Hayden Szeto) might have been more her cup of tea all along.
What makes The Edge of Seventeen such a rip-roaring success is that it both instantly feels familiar and fresh at the same time. Serving as both writer and director, Fremon Craig has crafted a film that both follows a formula and actively works to subvert your expectations at every turn. Her film is a heartfelt open book that will feel all too real for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider during recess. It doesn’t sugarcoat school but isn’t a total downer – somehow, she finds space in the tight 104-minute runtime for fully-fleshed shades of both.
Plus, not only is the writing sharp as a whip, its also complex and layered. Played wonderfully by Steinfeld, Nadine isn’t seen as the epitome of wit like we’ve seen in the past with characters like Ferris Bueller. Nadine is actually sort of a shit person; she doesn’t think of anyone other than herself, she is forever pointing the finger at other people and she pushes anyone who tries to help away.
Y’know, like an actual teenager? This isn’t a movie where the cast of teens race around and make the adults look like fools – it’s more realistic than that and doesn’t shy away from the harsh truth that actually, like Nadine, we can all be a bit of a crap friend or family member at times.
Steinfeld is radiant as Nadine; we buy into her teenage angst from the get-go and she handles the rapid transitions from jokes to anguish with ease. It helps that she melds well with almost everyone else in the cast, particularly Woody Harrelson’s hilarious history teacher and Szeto’s dorky and whimsical love interest.
Fremon Craig aims to surpass the limitations of the average coming-of-age film and wholeheartedly succeeds. Her film easily finds itself in the upper echelon of recent angst-ridden teen films, up there with the likes of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Sing Street and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Like those John Hughes films in decades gone by, it has a little bit of something for everyone.
The Edge of Seventeen is available in Australian cinemas from January 5th
Image courtesy of Roadshow Films