Tuesday, November 22, 2016

[Review] The Edge of Seventeen

Oh, high school...

The Edge of Seventeen deserves to be praised for its sheer sense of genuineness. Wonderfully written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, this teen dramedy is up there with some of the best modern coming-of-age films in recent memory. It's refreshingly frank, funny, heartfelt, and yes--relatable.

Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine, a frequently bullied outcast who's stuck in a constant state of awkward. She's also brutally honest and unapologetic, spiting the "winners" of the world. Luckily, her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) is always by her side. But their tight relationship shatters, and their social statuses fluctuate when Krista begins dating Nadine's popular, tight shirt-wearing older brother (played by Blake Jenner from this year's lively Everybody Wants Some!!).

Driven by a terrific performance from Hailee Steinfeld, the story navigates through Nadine's growing pains, angsty confusion, and new endeavors. We're with her the whole way, flaws and all. Her dynamic interactions with her surrounding peers and family reveal a lot about her character, whether it's the chats with a friendly classmate who shows interest in her, or a clumsy encounter with her elusive "Too cool for school" crush who has yet to accept her Friend Request on Facebook. Seriously, it's just out there waiting in the abyss! The snappy bouts with her messy mother are a hoot, and the conflict reaches boiling levels when she fights with her rival of a brother, especially as the two still are coming to terms with the recent death of their father. Best of all, are the lunchtime conversations (she avoids the cafeteria) with her brash and apparently non-caring history teacher (Woody Harrelson in perfect form). He's one of my favorite supporting characters to grace the screen this year.

Kelly Freemon Craig's (I was going to abbreviate it as KFC but that sounded weird) script is hilarious, effectively uncomfortable, and rounded out with emotion. The sharp dialogue and comical raunch is fitting and in-touch the generational zeitgeist. The story taps into contemporary technology debacles like accidentally-sent text messages, as well as prevalent gut-punches like that sinking feeling of cutting ties with longtime best friend. Sure, there are a lot of familiarities and genre tropes here, but who's complaining when this flick is so immensely watchable and greatly intended. Some of the elements are freshly spun too, like its brief scene that casually de-stigmatizes antidepressants, or its well-drawn and stereotype-free depiction of an under-represented Asian character (Hayden Szeto in a breakthrough role). There's also a handclap slaying of skeezy dirtbags for the ages.

The Edge of Seventeen will make you cringe. It'll make you nostalgic. It'll make you wish you could go back to when you were a Junior and change stuff... or completely block that time out of your memory. Nadine just wants everything to work out and go her way--just like all of us did during those formative years.

* 9.5/10 *

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1 comment:

  1. I didn't connect emotionally with Everybody Wants Some!! maybe because I didn't go to a US college. If coming of age films are done well then as you say they can be affecting/relatable. Based on your review, this one looks promising.