Nadine (Haillee Steinfeld) is having it rough. Not only does she feel like an outcast among outcasts, her only confidant, her best friend, has just done something unconscionable and their friendship may never recover. A darkly funny, cynically hopeful, joyfully angsty awkward teenage experience on film.
Authentic as it is over the top, The Edge of Seventeen is an actual teen film (not “another teen movie”) for this generation. Maybe not quite The Breakfast Club, but what is? Steinfeld plays the main character with a deft sense of persona – she’s just as naive and wrong about life as she is insightful and quietly likable. Trying to find herself in the midst of self loathing, Nadine stumbles over one block after another and we cheer her on as she picks herself up to move on to better things, even if she herself can’t see it at first.
Woody Harrelson plays one his most Woody Harrelsonish characters yet, a cold and snarky teacher who’s response to Nadine’s suicidal confession would likely get any real teacher arrested. There’s more to him than meets the eye though, and there’s a great chemistry between the two, eking humor out of the darker sides of life and growing up.
Other than those two and Kyra Sedgwick who plays Nadine’s …complicated… mother, much of the cast is fairly bland, sufficient and enjoyable, but not really shining too often. On the edge of breaking out as exceptional, though, is Hayden Szeto, the world’s most adorkable possible love interest. He may be a bit of a cliche (though which of these characters isn’t in some way) but you can’t help but like him in all of his awkwardness. Like Nadine, the film itself struggles a bit to really find itself, and triumphs in some ways while falling short in others.
The thing is, there’s not a lot new here – other than social media coming into play, not a whole lot has changed in the way kids grow up. The film flirts with unpredictability but doesn’t really commit beyond maybe a one night stand’s worth. If nothing else, though, The Edge of Seventeen proves that given the right characters and the right writing, the same story can be told again and still feel like something kind of new, and totally worth sitting through. Within the genre, this is a fairly shiny little gem. Real with bitter to match and then raise the sweet, but with an ending you can leave happy about.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film
Brother Hamster did not screen this film
My rating: Three out of five hats
The Edge of Seventeen mopes into over 1,900 theaters, November 17