The Edge of Seventeen: Review
Oh, to be seventeen again. That old chestnut. Film is no stranger to coming of age stories. Those awkward formative years that we all go through that make us feel like we are alone, misunderstood, angry at the world. Sure, we all have (or had) our own dealings with it, some better than others but it’s a universal experience nonetheless. What sets The Edge of Seventeen apart from many of the films that come before is that it shows the struggles of all those around that are involved in a fleshed out honest way.
Nadine is going though a lot. She’s still dealing with issues related to the passing of her dad. She hates her all but perfect brother and can’t stand that her best and only friend is becoming romantically involved. She can’t stand to look at herself in the mirror, only seeing the flaws and thinks that everyone else around her is self absorbed idiots that she can’t waste her time with. Erwin a fellow student in her history class seems to take a shine to her but she doesn’t think too much of it because she only has eyes for the guy that just got back from juvie. Her relationship with her mother is strained to say the least and the only person she feels comfortable confiding all of this is her teacher (Woody Harrelson) who just wants to enjoy his 32 minute lunch break in peace.
The cast is fantastic across the board. Hailee Steinfeld really carries the film with both an air of strength and crippling self doubt. She goes from self confidence to lashing out out of overwhelming defensiveness while always bringing a relatable vulnerability. The relationship between her and Woody Harrelson rings true as he plays a crotchety yet accessible teacher, he doesn’t just console her buying into her drama but grounds her while not coming across as too abrasive. Her mom is is trying but doesn’t know how to handle her daughter’s wild insubordinate nature while also dealing with her own insecurities of being a widow not ready to live the rest of her life alone. Her brother Darian is just so darn perfect. Handsome, in good shape, good at sports and popular, yet they do a great job of showing that all his good karmic fortune doesn’t come without its costs.
I think what makes this movie resonate so well is how flawed and real all the characters feel. Nadine is an incredibly flawed character and is so sure that outside forces are to blame that she never looks inward. Much of what holds Nadine back is that her own insecurities that cause her to alienate yourself rather than the world around her not being willing to accept her. There are some great scenes that while Nadine felt justified, she was going about them the wrong way. She was so concerned with how her best friend dating her brother would affect her that she didn’t think about what this could mean for her friend and for her brother. After feeling out of place at a party she uses Erwin to escape while not realizing how little she opened herself to the attention he so desperately wanted from her. Her scenes with Woody Harrelson were great because he was the only one to never let her get away with her crap. He would return her woe is me attitude with his is own apathetic demeanor then when she lashed out, out of frustration would offer her solace and a simple but affirming sense of support.
The Edge of Seventeen is a refreshing and heartfelt film that shows struggles of feeling accepted. There is plenty of drama but none of it felt contrived or out of place and the actions felt true to the characters on the screen.