The Edge of Seventeen
Nadine Franklin is a girl on The Edge of Seventeen who in the opening scenes of the entitled feature bursts into her teacher’s classroom to announce she is going to kill herself. As her declaration is met with disdain by Mr Bruner, a brilliantly sarcastic Woody Harrelson, the tone of the film is set: a familiar coming-of-age tale but with all the embarrassing, ugly and bitterly disappointing bits left in. After a short flashback to a less-than-smooth childhood, the movie follows Nadine in the wake of her father’s death as she confronts changing relationships with her best mate, pin-up jock of a brother, and insecure mother, and seeks to navigate an increasingly bleak friendless, boyfriendless, social-media-fraught reality.
Director Kelly Fremon Craig is determined to accurately capture the angst we suffer as teens, as well as high school America, without the Hollywood glaze. And for the most part she succeeds. Hailee Steinfeld is her primary weapon and she puts in a compelling performance: the camera getting up close and personal as she plays Nadine hugging toilet bowls, awkwardly rambling and saying the wrong thing in social situations and repeatedly clawing at her un-makeuped face in exasperation. Self-loathing – and self-obsession – are depicted in such painstaking detail that the audience is perpetually caught between empathy and dislike for their raging, put-upon heroine.
Woody Harrelson is a welcome comic relief throughout their banterous interactions, responding to Nadine’s ruminations that perhaps she is “just not of her own generation” with the suggestion that nobody likes her. Yet he also provides some of the film’s most poignant moments, disarming the protagonist’s relentless melodrama by resisting any of the cliched reactions she and the audience expect. Kyra Sedgwick is a great casting choice for her imperfect, lonely mother, Mona, with a contrasting glamorous appearance and advise such as, “Close your eyes and remind yourself that everyone else feels just as empty as you do; they are just better at pretending”. Blake Jenner is a brooding, if slightly wooden older brother, Darian, and before she “ditches” Nadine for the sake of love, Haley Lu Richardson as best mate Krista has a non-pristine edgy attraction.
Channelling some but not all of the charm of Juno, originality of Boyhood and grit of American Honey, as well as the genre’s best from yesteryear (notably Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You), The Edge of Seventeen is undoubtedly derivative. Nonetheless, it balances a retro aesthetic with technology-era anxieties, and mature themes such as grief and non-consensual sex with comedy, to depict the modern teenage world with heartfelt authenticity.
The Edge of Seventeen is released nationwide on 30th November 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Edge of Seventeen here: