Director: Kelly Fremon Craig
Screenwriter: Kelly Fremon Craig
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Kyra Sedgwick, Woody Harrelson
Runtime: 104 mins
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Review by Dave Griffiths
Since Juno was released nearly a decade ago, every second filmmaker seems to have had a try to make a coming-of-age film that is as witty and as funny. Realistically only one film has come close – The Way, Way Back, which is an absolute gem and a must-see if you haven’t already seen it. Now comes The Edge Of Seventeen which tries its hardest to be Juno Mark II and while it certainly isn’t in the same league as Juno it is a film that has enough merit for you to part with your hard-earned cash to go and see it.
The central character with The Edge Of Seventeen is Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit), a girl who openly admits that she is a ‘loser’. She doesn’t wear the coolest clothes, isn’t a part of the in-crowd and only has one friend in the whole world – her bestie Krista (Haley Lu Richardson – The Last Survivors). In Nadine’s eyes, she is the polar opposite of her brother, Darian (Blake Jenner – Everybody Wants Some). To Nadine Darian is cool, has lots of friends, excels at sport and can have any girl he wants. The fact that their mentally dysfunctional mother, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick – The Closer) is bordering on being suicidal seems to go unnoticed by Darian who is more worried about his social life.
Then suddenly everything in Nadine’s world comes crashing down when Darian notices Krista and the pair start dating… something that Nadine can’t cope with. She writes Krista off as a friend and begins to start bugging her teacher Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson – Now You See Me) on a daily basis. Meanwhile gifted but very nervous film student Erwin (Hayden Szeto – Chop Shop) keeps making awkward attempts to woo Nadine, but she only has eyes for the school’s bad boy Nick Mossman (Alexander Calvert – Arrow).
As a movie The Edge Of Seventeen is somewhat of a frustrating watch. Director/screenwriter Kelly Fremon Craig (Post Grad) has created a film in which the hero of the story is pretty much an unlikable character. Yes, Nadine may act like most sixteen/seventeen-year-old girls, but her self-centredness during the film does start to grate on the audience, the same way she starts to get on the nerves of Mr Bruner. Somehow Craig allows Nadine to win you over and despite her being annoying you do want to see her end up with Erwin rather than do something crazy with Nick. Your feelings as an audience member for Nadine come right to the fore when Craig places the teen in danger of being sexually assaulted.
To her credit Craig also brings a harsh realism to the film as she pushes the plot to include realistic storylines including children being forced to put their own lives on hold to look after a mentally ill parent, in their eyes being completely betrayed by their best friend and a young girl who feels that becoming sexual will help her not only make friends but become popular. Perhaps Craig’s biggest win with the film is the moment when she reveals what a struggle Darian also has in his life… that was the moment that made me realise that this film was a little better than average.
The film does allow audiences to see a different side of Hailee Steinfeld. In the past we have always seen her in dramatic roles such as her Oscar-nominated role in True Grit but here we see Steinfeld do that rare thing of being able to mix drama and comedy together remarkably well… it is no surprise that the role has earned her a Golden Globe nomination. There is little surprise that Kyra Sedgewick and Woody Harrelson also stand up well in this film, even though you do feel at times that Harrelson is under-used throughout the film.
The Edge Of Seventeen also makes for two surprising performances. Blake Jenner who was awful in Everybody Wants Some really changes the tide here and puts in a remarkable performance, especially in the latter scenes of the film where he is forced to confront his sister on her behaviour. Also announcing herself is Haley Lu Richardson who does enough to show that she is an actress that needs to be watched in future.
Be prepared that The Edge Of Seventeen might be frustrating for some to watch. At times Nadine is not a likeable character but when this film reveals its hand with a twist it suddenly becomes the kind of film you want to watch again. The Edge Of Seventeen may not be as witty as Juno, but it’s dramatic moments more than makeup for what it lacks in comedy.
The Edge Of Seventeen opens in cinemas on New Years Day.
3.5 out of 5 stars