Being a seventeen-year-old girl is hard, isn’t it? You don’t have to pay any of the bills in the massive 4 bedroom house that you live in. You have people to drive you to school every day. No one is there to tell you not everything is about you. You have people who put up with you no matter how big of a pariah you are. The struggle is real. Most girls remember that age in their lives where they thought their lives were over at least 3-4 times a day. Add high school to the mix and that number probably increases to 10-17 times a day. There hasn’t really been a good coming of age movie that I can remember in some time. I know many people will say Boyhood but that doesn’t count considering how it was literally a boy growing up on camera. However, The Edge of Seventeen shoots to be a modern-day Sixteen Candles when it comes to that genre and it has the name cast to do it, but does it have to charm to pull it off, or is it just another film that will make you hate millennials even more than you already do.
Edge of Seventeen is a story about a girl named Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) who according to her, God has decided to smite her personally. Nadine was always a loner and never got along with people, even her own family. The only positive relationship she has is her best friend/only friend Krista, and her father. Sadly her father dies of a heart attack and Nadine proceeds to become even darker to the outside world. Nadine’s world is turned upside down when her only friend and her older brother decided to start a relationship. With her world falling apart around her (at least that’s what she thinks) Nadine is in desperate need to find meaning in her life before she decides to end it all…or at least threaten to do so for the third time that day.
When the protagonist of your film is a self-absorbed high school junior, it’s easy to naturally dislike the character on principle. But Nadine is such a charming and crass character, you’ll grow to like her while simultaneously wanting to smack some sense into her as well. Nadine spends her day drowning in her own self-pity but she also has never had anyone to really put her in check. The only person she’s ever respected was her father. Her mother is a pushover, she is jealous of her own brother, and the only other adult who actually speaks to her is her cynical history teacher Mr. Bruner, played by Woody Harrelson. Bruner is the perfect balance to Nadine’s sarcastic banter, he’s the only person in the film who doesn’t put up with Nadine’s crap and it feels like that’s what she needs.
As with any coming of age story, our main character goes through a rollercoaster of emotions which involves hitting rock bottom before her moment of clarity. After losing her only friend to her brother, embarrassing herself with her crush, and burning her bridge with the only boy who actually likes her, Nadine is hit with the semi-truck of reality and discovers, not everything is about her. Being so self-absorbed, Nadine has never taken the time to think about how her actions affect the people around her. As obnoxious as she is, the film does a great job showing she’s really just a troubled teen who is hurt by the lack of guidance and direction in her life. You understand where she’s coming from and begin to root for her comeback. By the film’s end, she is able to find new friends, come to terms with her family, and even finds a cute boy who isn’t a giant bag of douche, which is difficult considering this is high school.
The Edge of Seventeen is a humorous take on teenage life in small-town America. While the plot feels melodramatic at times, it is expected with the main character being a teenage girl. Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson have great chemistry with each other and even when they are just being complete dicks to each other; it still has a heartwarming feel to the story. The Edge of Seventeen avoids the corniness and pure schlock of teen movies that we are used to seeing and delivers a well written, down to earth take on teenage life. It may not be Sixteen Candles but is it one of the best films in the genre this decade, maybe the last two.
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