The Edge of Seventeen: Film ReviewCast: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Blake Jenner, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto
Director: Kelly Fremon
The pantheon of teen coming of age films is not one that is lacking in entrants.
From Clueless to Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, it's not like the chance to shake up the genre appears that often.
So it is with The Edge of Seventeen, a distinctly tween-ish drama that's not exactly new, nor one that proves to be a game-changer. It is however, competently trotted through the tropes, thanks largely to the story and engaging performances.
True Grit's break-out star Hailee Steinfeld is Nadine, a kid who's perpetually lived life on the outside of the school groups and permanently in the shadow of her good-looking brother Darien (Everybody Wants Some!!'s Blake Jenner).
Life's rough for Nadine, with her father dying unexpectedly and her butting of horns with her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) - it's the usual teen traumas all mixed up in the self involved drama that so consumes many a youth.
But in among the debris and detritus of high-school life, Nadine's world was changed when she met her pal Krista (Haley Lu Richardson).
BFFs forever, true blue buddies who bond over their outsider status, the duo becomes inseparable until one day, Krista ends up hooking up with Darien and Nadine's selfish world is shattered....
The Edge of Seventeen brings another precocious teen to the screen, and with it a feeling that kids these days don't actually speak like that in real life or realise that what's going on is part of the growing pains process.
Kelly Fremon Craig's flick sets out its store initially by having Nadine striding with purpose before staunchly informing her put upon teacher and surrogate father figure (a nicely sarcastic and laconic Woody Harrelson, echoing Jon Bernthal's role in Me and Earl and The Dying Girl) that she intends to kill herself. complete with self-absorbed voiceover and slightly off-kilter edges, the story back spools to present how we got to this point.
Thankfully, while Nadine verges on grating due to her incessant over-use of exaggeration, language and self-involved nature, Steinfeld makes a good fist of Nadine's petulance and lets the humanity and empathy come through in this fairly rote coming-of-age thriller. It'll speak volumes to its target market teen audience, but it lacks the levity of a Cher in Clueless approach and manufactures melodrama when simple drama will suffice.
There are moments that older age wisdom permeate, thanks largely to Sedgwick's beaten-around-the-track widow, and there are certainly more optimistic touches in a burgeoning relationship between Steinfeld's Nadine and the film's break-out star Szeto as nerdy awkward type Erwin (whom many may identify with).
Theirs is a romance that revels in its awkwardness and delights in its differences, and as a result, thanks largely to Szeto's on-the-nose performance, is one that feels the most real of the entire film.
Other relationships in the film (aside from the BFFs) feel greatly exaggerated for effect and push only to permeate the view that self-involvement is the only common thing we all share as teenagers.
The Edge of Seventeen may fail to offer up any trite or new insights into teen life, preferring more to stick to the tried and tested formula and oft invoked lessons, but thanks largely to its performers (and Szeto in particular) and occasionally off-kilter moments, it just about succeeds despite bordering nigh on irritating at times.