The Edge of Seventeen (2016) Review
Obnoxious and Intolerable
The Edge of Seventeen opens with high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) barging into the classroom of her history teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), and claiming she’s going to kill herself. Nadine has had a rough life up until this point. As a child, she never really fit in and that aspect has transitioned into her teenage years. She was bullied for being different and completely disobedient when it came to listening to her mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick), but was a total daddy’s girl up until his sudden death. The only person Nadine feels like she can count on is her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), but even that is thrown out the window when Krista begins dating Nadine’s older brother Darian (Blake Jenner). Nadine feels like her already depressing existence has become downright unbearable.
Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, The Edge of Seventeen is a coming of age story that details the challenges some may face or relate to while in high school. Hailee Steinfeld delivers a powerful and substantial performance as Nadine. Nadine’s hatred for life oozes from Steinfeld’s body language, facial expressions, and humorously venomous animosity that spews from her lips at all times. The character is relatable in several ways, especially if you felt similar to Nadine while in high school.
What takes away from The Edge of Seventeen really knocking it out of the park is Nadine herself. While this is her story and her out of control existence is put directly in the spotlight, you dislike Nadine as a character. She talks way too much and she’s entirely too conceited and self-absorbed to actually care about. Realizing that the world doesn’t revolve around you plays a major factor in the resolution of the film and while this can be viewed as a method of maturing it also seems to give the Nadine character free reign to do whatever the hell she wants. She throws tantrums with one in particular being entirely unbelievable since it results in little to no punishment or atonement. The crush she has on local bad boy turned pet store employee Nick Mossman (Alexander Calvert) has the most infuriating conclusion imaginable. It’s as if the film is trying to make you feel badly for Nadine, but her awkwardness is what got her into the situation and a straightforward invitation suddenly makes Nick the bad guy. While Nadine is attempting to find her place in life as the film unfolds, the character becomes more and more hypocritical and obnoxious.
The performances in the comedic drama are quite satisfying. Woody Harrelson is this perfect blend of sarcastic jerk, teasing confidant, and aspiring mentor in Mr. Bruner and Kyra Sedgwick’s portrayal of Mona is this desperate struggle that also reveals where Nadine gets that undying desire to fit in anywhere. The most enjoyable part of the film resides in the character Erwin portrayed by Hayden Szeto. Erwin is just as awkward as Nadine, if not more so. He has a crush on Nadine that she takes for granted until she realizes there’s a lot more to Erwin than most are given the opportunity to see. Szeto has this clumsy charm about him that only emphasizes how funny he is. His comedic timing is masterful and you enjoy the character’s presence whenever he’s on screen.
If you’ve ever gone through experiencing depression or are currently doing so, then it’s usually pretty easy to see yourself in someone’s shoes while viewing a film revolving around the subject matter. Life is often coping with the crap life dumps on you, but sometimes individuals go through that their entire lives. Hating life and everyone that inhabits the earth is the next logical step when you already dislike yourself so much. Feeling more comfortable being alone or realizing you’re clumsy in social situations is something everyone goes through at some point. These are the things that The Edge of Seventeen does right. If you reflect on your own life during the course of a film, then some credit is due to exceptional writing and filmmaking. These situations and emotions are what Nadine goes through over the course of the film, but the character is already beyond broken and just ugly to be around with unrealistic expectations.
The Edge of Seventeen has loads to say regarding feeling like a fish out of water in high school. Its approach is often amusing and even easy to relate to from time to time and the performances from the entire cast are comedically and emotionally rewarding, but the central character gets on your last nerve and nearly ruins a semi-pleasurable experience.
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