The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review
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At the ripe old age of 19, Hailee Steinfield is an industry pro. Her breakthrough role as Mattie in the remake of True Grit earned her an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress at 13 years old. Since then she has been busy starring in films like Ender’s Game (2013), Romeo & Juliet (2013), and Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)– which kick started a successful singing career. At this point in her life, I can imagine Hailee reads through a lot of scripts, so there has to be art to picking excellent ones like The Edge of Seventeen.
Nadine Byrd (Hailee Steinfield) is a high school outcasts with one best friend, a crass vocabulary, popular older brother, and an ugly girl complex the size of Texas. Like most outcast in films, Nadine starts with “two types of people in the world…” narrative. “There are two types of people in the world: the people who radiate confidence and naturally excel at life and the people who hope all those people die in a big explosion”. Can you guess which category she identifies with?
Nadine is a ball of insecurities, hilariously paced crude humor, and the self- centeredness that runs rampant in most at the edge of 17. When the only person on the entire planet who understands Nadine, her best friend Krista (Hayley Lu Richardson), starts dating her old brother and least favorite human, Darian (Blake Jenner), her world begins to crumble. The film begins with Nadine confiding to her teacher Mr. Burner (Woody Harrelson) all the ways in which she can kill herself to which he states (in a very deadpanned manner) that he too had been contemplating suicide because an annoying and badly dressed student would not leave him be. That’s their relationship, and it’s perfect. Luckily, Nadine is just as much of a smart ass so to hear their banter throughout the film is quite enjoyable and amusing. Harrelson and Steinfield play the pair like the seasoned professionals they are.
While watching The Edge of Seventeen I could not help but dislike the people in Nadine’s life including her mom (Kyra Sedgwick) who is just as, if not more self-centered than she is. Her older brother (who is also just a teenager) is trying his best to be a good person and deserves happiness like anyone else…just not with her best friend. I could not help but feel that he and Krista were acting very selfishly. The film was telling us that Nadine needed to get over herself in that aspect, but I disagreed. Maybe it’s MY inherently selfish ways, but I understood and empathized with her throughout most of the movie. Luckily, the saving grace throughout the cringe worthy moments (including sending a very sexually explicit message to Nadine’s crush, Nick played by Alexander Calvert) was the “adorkable” and charming Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto). His infatuation with Nadine had me wanting to scream at her “pick the nerd, they’re always better!”. Hayden did a wonderful job playing Erwin in an earnest and endearing way that had the audience stuck between cracking up and deeply sighing at how truly good he was. His performance made a fan out of me and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here!
From start to finish The Edge of Seventeen was grade A humor, even when they started to slip into race based comedy (some of the cheapest kind, in my opinion), they called themselves out right away. As per usual, I cried (yes, even in comedies) as there was a fantastic scene that showed the desperation and hurt under the vibrato that Nadine works so hard to give off.
The Edge of Seventeen has been compared to nearly every teenage coming of age story in history but truly brings its own flavor to the established genre. Many congrats to the cast and writer/ director Kelly Fremon Craig on that. Hailee has acted in many films but this has to be the one in which she shined the brightest. After watching this, I can only hope that there’s a film that shows what the edge of eighteen truly looks like.