Review: “Edge of Seventeen”
Is this the breakout teen movie of 2016? While I found it hilarious, full of dark, twisted humor and laughed the entire time, I didn’t feel that it was quite on par with iconic “Breakfast Club” or 2007’s “Juno”. It does not have anything new or radically different. However, it is a wonderful film that manages to strike a great balance between the awkwardness of teen life and the reality of how grief effects family relationships which is why I loved it.
Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is in high school, seventeen and struggling with the usual teenage angst, how to get the cool guy she likes to notice her and where she fits in with the high school crowds. She is also dealing with the death of her father four years prior but manages to get by with the help of her best and really only friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). Then Krista falls for Nadine’s older, popular brother Darian (Blake Jenner) Nadine begins a slow meltdown that culminates in a fight with Krista in which Nadine gives her friend an ultimatum, me or my brother. Krista refuses to choose and Nadine breaks up with her friend.
That leaves her at a loss, so Nadine tries to fill the void left by Krista. She hangs out with a classmate, Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto), who flirts awkwardly with her and attempts to get her to take him seriously. She continues to moon over the bad boy Nick Mossman (Alexander Calvert) who doesn’t take her seriously. Her mother, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) tries but is mired in her issues over her husband’s death and struggles to connect with Nadine. So, Nadine trades witty banter with her history teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) who eventually is able to give her some support and some insights that allow her to find a path through the minefield of high school life.
This movie was one of the funniest movies I’ve been to so far. Woody Harrelson stole every scene he was in with Nadine. As her teacher, he never gave her an easy answer and he delivered tons of humor in every bit he was in, even blowing kisses to his son. He was easily one of the best parts about this film. Nadine was sarcastic, dark, and twisted in a laugh out loud kind of way and I liked that the character does develop some self-awareness along the way. Erwin was adorkable and really was way too cute to have been a geek at my school but I loved how he flirted with Nadine and how he never let her put him down without teasing her. There was mutual respect and mutual laughter between the two characters.
The dynamics between her and her brother were realistic and it was refreshing to see them struggle with their relationship. And you were given both points of view which was important for Nadine’s character growth. You see how much pressure is put on him as the older brother and how much he is expected to handle. I also like the progression of Nadine’s character as she struggles with the changes in her life. Her father’s death is handled with sensitivity and compassion and the issues in the film are universal ones that everyone has felt at some point in their lives. The writers throw in some small twists with technology but these are elements every teen must deal with to grow up. Nadine feels she has nothing in common with the other kids her age but once she opens up, her world changes.
There are also a great moment with Nadine and Nick. They end up going out but rather than be pressured into something she’s not comfortable with, she says no. And the boy, while confused and trying to do more, does actually accept no. This is a great way to depart from rape culture and in a teen movie, it is remarkably well done.
There was some predictability. It was a teen movie so there were some expected elements. The bad boy reacted exactly as you would expect and was a bit two dimensional for my tastes. I was bewildered by the parents leaving their teenagers alone in the house. My mother would never have done that so either this is a testament to today’s society or it was played for humor. But either way, it came across as unrealistic to me. That said, Mom being a hot mess after losing her husband made sense and the characters were real, less than perfect and that made this movie even better.
I was so immersed in the humor of the movie that I missed some of the predictable moments until after the movie ended which says a lot. I think people of all ages will laugh and emphasize with the mistakes Nadine makes and think back to their own teenage years. The messages were universal. This will pass and things get better. I think that’s a great message for any teen watching this movie and thinking that nothing is going well. And I think teens will love seeing someone mess up worse than themselves. All in all, I loved this movie with its humor and its angst.
Rating: 4.0 stars