Looking Back at 2010s Films: The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

11 Oct

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By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films, this is “The Edge of Seventeen”…not to be confused with the Stevie Nicks song…which is nowhere to be heard in this movie…weird.

This is a teenage coming-of-age comedy-drama about an awkward, depressed outsider named Nadine (played wonderfully by Hailee Steinfeld) in her senior year of high school. She’s resentful of her popular brother Darian (Blake Jenner from “Everybody Wants Some!!”), her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) doesn’t pay enough attention to her, she’s not comfortable in her own skin, and worse yet, her only friend (Haley Lu Richardson) is now in a relationship with Darian. There’s an awkward but sweet classmate named Erwin (Hayden Szeto, who I learned was *30* when he made this film!) who not-so-secretly admires her, and while she does give him attention, she has another boy on her mind–you know, the “dangerous” type. The film is basically about Nadine being comfortable with herself with help from those around her, including a teacher (Woody Harrelson) who tells it like it is.

A lot of this material is familiar, but a lot of us have gone through similar experiences in high-school and it’s important for as many writer-directors to draw from what they themselves have gone through.

There is a lot of heart and emotion in this film, thanks to writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s vision and the performances from her talented cast.

Nadine is easy to empathize with, even when she seems difficult to sympathize with, because she’s 100% real. When she’s a smartass, when she’s sad, when she’s self-loathing, when she’s a terror towards other people–I get it, because we’ve all been there and done that.

ALL of the characters seem real. They’re not as fleshed out as Nadine (obviously), but they aren’t portrayed as two-dimensional types either. The mom is clueless but she’s trying. The brother has self-esteem issues too. The best friend wants to venture away from familiar territory. The teacher has wisdom behind his wisecracks. And so on.

Oh, and there’s also Erwin. Was I the only one who bought his charm from the beginning? I didn’t know I was supposed to warm up to him the same way Nadine (and apparently the rest of the audience) did. Whatever–Erwin’s awesome, and I’m glad he got the girl.

One other thing I want to say to critics who aren’t reading my posts–stop comparing today’s “teen movies” to John Hughes teen movies. It’s cliched and doesn’t make sense anymore. Those movies were also good at blending comedy and drama with real teen problems. But this is a new era, with new problems, and new filmmaking techniques. Just call “The Edge of Seventeen” what it is–one of the smartest coming-of-age films in a decade full of smart coming-of-age films.

Kelly Fremon Craig’s upcoming film project is an adaptation of the Judy Blume novel, “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.” And I’m definitely curious to see how she handles that heavy material.

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