Edge of Seventeen
Ah, youth. Those of
us “of a certain age” may have a tendency to remember it
nostalgically, and long for those times when we were young and
vigorous and had our whole futures before us.
“The Edge of Seventeen” reminds us that it was also a time
full of angst and awkwardness, when we said and did impulsive things,
and were still straining under the constraints of our nuclear families
while longing for the personal independence that we knew was still a
long ways off.
Writer and Director Kelly Fremon Craig creates a character in
Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) that we all identify with, because she
realizes she's not presenting her “best self” to others, but
somehow can't stop herself from being insecure.
She feels like she's in a high school where she has no place
she belongs. The other
kids don't seem interested in including her, and she still suffers
from bad memories of being bullied by some of the “mean girls”
when she was younger. At
home, things aren't much better. She
loved her Dad very much, but he died suddenly of a heart attack, and
since then her Mom (Kyra Sedgwick) has been the classicly stressed-out
single Mom who works too hard and is lonely, because she hasn't found
anybody else to share her life. Mom also has a tendency to lean on
older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), who Nadine thinks of as one of
those smart, successful, popular kids who don't suffer from self-doubt
the way she does. So she
doesn't feel close to her Mom or her brother, and her only bright spot
is her only friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), who seems to
understand her like nobody else does.
In the meantime, she has a crush on a boy at school who won't
give her the time of day, and she's too self-absorbed to notice a nice
boy, Erwin (Hayden Szeto) paying attention to her in class, who's just
as awkward about initiating conversation as she is.
Nadine even seeks refuge by eating lunch with a teacher, Mr.
Bruner (Woody Harrelson), but he's not exactly Mr. Warm and Fuzzy,
All this personal unhappiness gets even worse when her best
friend starts dating her brother, and Nadine can't bring herself to be
happy for either of them. She
accidentally sends a sexually suggestive text to the boy she thinks
she would like to be with, but somehow doesn't put two and two
together that his sudden interest would mean that he would expect
immediate sexual favors. (How do you say “Just kidding” about
something like that?) She
and her mother have a big argument, and she winds up calling her
teacher to pick her up from a disaster date.
At one point, an adult in her life tries to tell her that
“this, too, shall pass,” and of course, it does.
The things that seemed so incredibly important then were maybe
overblown in our adolescent self-absorption.
Writer and Director Craig raises the scatology bar in the
dialogue, and you may not remember thinking or talking that way as a
teenager. But Oscar
nominee Hailee Steinfeld is one of those actors who just mesmerize you
with their depth and range. We root for her even when she's not that
lovable, because we think her sensitivity and emotional intelligence
will serve her well later, when she doesn't feel so vulnerable.
Yep, this will take you right back to your awkward teenager
phase, quicker than a high school reunion.
Steinfeld might even receive another Oscar nomination for this
performance. Too bad the
people around her look too old to be high schoolers.