The Edge of Seventeen

Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine, an awkward teenager. Scratch that. Make it a super awkward teenager. So awkward that I kept ducking behind my coat (the only thing available to be in the theatre), blushing, needing a buffer between myself and all the squirm-inducing goodness on screen.

Was I ever 17? I doubt it. I bet Nadine feels like she’ll be 17 forever though. The the-edge-of-seventeenawkwardness just goes on and on. To make matters worse, her brother Darian (Blake Jenner) has it easy: perfect skin, perfect grades, the perfect apple of his mother’s eye, and a perfectly terrible person to be compared to for the rest of your life. To make matters EVEN worse, Darian starts dating Nadine’s best friend (read: only friend), which means he’s getting all the comfort that used to be hers, and she’s forced to be at war with them both while still, you know, blundering her way through life and high school, with only an irascible teacher (Woody Harrelson) in her corner – and believe me, that’s a bit iffy.

Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig seems awfully comfortable behind the camera for a first-timer, but it’s the writing you’ll admire most. Nadine is largely unsentimental, and unsentimentally portrayed. You love her despite the fact that she’s a dumpster fire. She makes all the wrong decisions, usually in the most flamboyant way possible, and yet it’s impossible not to care. Maybe it’s that we can all find some small part of ourselves and our experience in Nadine, in her struggle just to survive a pretty delicate (read: embarrassing) edge_of_seventeentime in one’s life.

All of the performances are exemplary – even the adults have secrets and dimension. The ensemble works together in a very dynamic, authentic way that would be depressing if it wasn’t so funny. Craig’s writing is snappy and smart, and she manages to keep her protagonist’s unlikeability an asset to the film. It’s an observant film, and universal enough to exceed the confines of a teen movie and appeal to the awkward teenager in all of us.

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12 thoughts on “The Edge of Seventeen

  1. Sean

    Above all else, this movie reminded me how great Woody Harrelson is. Then you reminded me I should already know that because we just saw him be great in LBJ! It’s really nice to see a high school movie with deep characters and excellent performances. There aren’t nearly enough like this one.

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  2. Liz A.

    I’ve heard good ones about this one. But awkward? Yeah, I don’t do awkward in the theater. I’m way too empathetic, even in the movies, so I have a hard time with squirm inducing stories.

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  3. Courtney Young

    Great review, although it’s clear that you enjoyed this far more than I did. I liked it, but didn’t love it. It just didn’t offer anything new to the genre that I hadn’t seen before :\ Check out my review if you get a chance for a different opinion!

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  4. J.

    One for small screen watching, then? I’ll likely catch this just cause Woody Harrelson’s there. Just finished The Hunger Games for that very reason…

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