DVD REVIEW: The Edge of Seventeen
Teen movies may be past their real heyday now, but occasionally a film comes along that manages to encapsulate the best of its niche. Easy A was one such movie with its cracker of a lead performance from Emma Stone coupled with Bert V. Royal's whipsmart screenplay and Will Gluck's snappy direction. Now, we have another in The Edge of Seventeen, written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig and featuring a fearless lead performance from True Grit's breakout, Hailee Steinfeld.
Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is a teen who feels persecuted from all sides. She's socially awkward, with just the one friend in Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), and a superstar popular big brother, Darian (Blake Jenner). When Krista and Darian start dating, Nadine sees it as an event of relationship-ending proportions and embarks on a solo path that finds her striking up a friendship with Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto), lusting after Nick (Alexander Calvert), the high school bad boy, and keeping up a sparring match with her history teacher (Woody Harrelson).
There are moments in The Edge of Seventeen which feel achingly relatable (the house party, during which Nadine loiters awkwardly on the edges of conversations, springs to mind) as well as others that reside just on the right side of discomfort. As Nadine crashes through her two weeks without her best friend, you can see her pitfalls coming because of their commonality within the teenage experience. It never forgets that teenage girls have the capacity to be brilliant and witty, but also the potential to be cruel and angsty.
The film rests on the more than capable shoulders of Steinfeld who handles a capricious character with a careful grace. Nadine's selfishness and bite could easily have proven alienating for an audience, but Steinfeld ensures that the character's loneliness is never far from the surface. She also proves to be a dab hand with witty, fast-paced dialogue, navigating angry rants, deadpan one liners, and the quieter, emotional moments with apparent ease. With Steinfeld on such fine form, her high school contemporaries don't get quite as much of a look in, but Blake Jenner gets one standout scene whilst Hayden Szeto is adorably awkward in his increasing desperation to get Nadine to notice him.
In the supporting cast, it's the old veterans who are the particular highlights. Woody Harrelson's sardonic Mr Bruner is the kind of laidback foil needed for one wound as tightly as Nadine. Their early scene together, in which Nadine promises she's going to kill herself and Bruner bats it away with a wry smile, manages to encapsulate their relationship beautifully and it's a joy to watch it develop as the movie plays out. Kyra Sedgwick as Nadine's put-upon, overly dramatic mother offers a different kind of foil, highly strung and barely holding it together.
They are all given a set of believable circumstances to work with and Fremon Craig mines her comedy from ordinary everyday life rather than resorting to plunging her characters into outlandish situations. The Edge of Seventeen is extremely funny as a result because these are circumstances we've experienced, witnessed, or vicariously lived through thanks to anecdotes and Facebook statuses.
In an assured and sparky directorial debut, Fremon Craig has produced a film fully deserving of a status as a teen classic. Inevitably, films in this particular bracket will always be compared to the heights of a John Hughes movie (cited by Fremon Craig as a key influence). Craig not only produces something as incisive and authentic, but with the same considerable amount of heart too.
DVD Extras: Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel (Recommend if you need a giggle. There's lots of giggling)
The Edge of Seventeen is available to download and on DVD now.