By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Teen angst and frustration has never been better written better as that of protagonist Nadine Byrd in this entertaining and touching film. Writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig does a tremendous job with her directorial debut and actress Hailee Steinfeld (2010’s True Grit) offers a wonderful breakthrough performance as Nadine. With its sharply written script and excellent performances by the entire cast, The Edge of Seventeen is the must-see teen comedy/drama of the year.
Nadine Byrd has struggled with self-confidence and social skills, ever since she started her first day in school. Her older brother Darian (Blake Jenner), on the other hand, has never had that problem, and by the time he reaches his senior year of high school, the young man has established himself as a popular high school, superstar athlete. Even though Nadine has struggled with making friends, she manages to meet a life-long best friend in Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) and the two have remained inseparable ever since kindergarten. As the girls enter their junior year of high school, things get more awkward and complicated for Nadine when Krista and Darian start dating. Refusing to accept this latest development, Nadine has no one to turn to, and relies on her ornery teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) for counseling. Frustrated and confused, Nadine begins a new friendship with admirer Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto) and gawkily pursues a relationship with her crush Nick Mossman (Alexander Calvert), a “bad boy” who barely knows she exists.
I must say, I am rather impressed with Craig’s screenplay and direction here, and believe that she has a bright future ahead as a filmmaker. Craig has written a wonderful script that skillfully blends the comedy and drama, and develops the protagonist mostly well. My only gripe with the story has to do with how easily and neatly things get wrapped up in the end. The movie presents a character with some unresolved issues, and in obvious need of some professional counseling, but her character seems to recover without it. As realistic as the other scenarios in the film are, I feel that the absence of this story element, and the way things get resolved do not match at all in this film.
With the exception of this problem, the film has some excellent comedic writing by Craig. The comedic lines and dialogue are some of the best of the year and Haley Steinfeld offers an outstanding performance that has her delivering this wonderfully hilarious material. Not since Ellen Page’s breakthrough performance in Juno, have I seen such a turn that is the perfect blend of comic timing and delivery with genuine drama, heartache and melodrama. In 201o, Steinfeld received a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Oscars for her excellent performance as Mattie Ross in True Grit, and I hope she receives a nomination for Best Actress next year. In addition to the great performances by Halee Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Kyra Sedgwick, and Alexander Calvert, the film also features wonderful work by Kyra Sedgwick, Hayden Szeto, and Woody Harrelson. I can easily see Harrelson receiving some nominations for Best Supporting Actor, as he makes the perfect foil to Nadine’s drama queen antics.
I also believe that Kelly Fremont Craig will at least receive a nominations for her screenplay. Despite my complaints about the film’s resolution, there’s no denying how well-written the comedy is. Teens will probably absolutely adore The Edge of Seventeen, but there’s enough greatness in this movie to appeal to adults of all ages. Teen parents, in particular, will relate to the comedy and melodrama that takes place in the fictional life of Nadine Byrd. It is a movie that should appeal to a wide variety of audiences. The movie is rated R, for strong language and content, and parents should exercise discretion with their younger children. For parents with children in their teenage years, this film would make for an entertaining time at the cinema.