Teen Angst Festers In The Edge Of Seventeen
Nadine just had a birthday, but she's been anything but happy as a high school junior in The Edge Of Seventeen. Hailee Steinfeld stars as Nadine, who spends her lunch hour interrupting the lunch of her favorite teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), who indulges Nadine a bit instead of throwing her out of his classroom. She sees herself as an outsider, even in her own home. She still mourns the death of her father, who constantly served as a peacemaker between Nadine and her mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick). Her brother Darian (Blake Jenner) has always had a circle of friends, while Nadine relies on friendship from Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), whom she met when they were younger. Nadine harbors a crush for Nick (Alexander Calvert), and wonders if she should let him know.
Meanwhile, Nadine uneasily watches her world changing. Following a party at Nadine's home, Krista starts to take a liking to Darian, and they start dating. Nadine decides to give Krista an ultimatum as a result, but that doesn't go Nadine's way. In school, she makes an unexpected friend in Erwin (Harley Szeto), though she keeps trying to get Nick to notice her. Things grow even more tense in her house as each member of the house grows tired of one another's behavior. Nadine struggles to find anything good in her changing situation.
The Edge Of Seventeen, which never references the similarly-titled song by Stevie Nicks, is a good, but uneven, mix of comedy and drama from writer Kelly Fremon Craig, who makes her feature directorial debut with this picture. She does capture the difficulty of being a teen with a great streak of moodiness, and how that time can be infuriating for Nadine and for those around her. Nadine knows kindness, but doesn't always appreciate it when it comes her way. In a real-life situation, though, I doubt that someone as attractive as Nadine would be an outcast. Further, Darian shows that he'd watch out for his little sister whenever needed. Nadine's family often behaves in a dysfunctional fashion, but they never cease to be a family.
Steinfeld gives a very good performance as Nadine, who admits she still mourns the loss of her father to which she bore witness. She's lived with loss, but never really accepted the change. Watching her best friend grow closer to her big brother just makes her sense of loss grow. She may think Nick is the ideal guy, but her reaching out to him grows disastrous. She tries to take steps to accept kindness from her family and friends, but does so with with the ever-changing mindset of a teen. Harrelson is quietly effective as Mr. Bruner, a teacher with concerns that lie beyond eating his lunch in peace. He provides an adult perspective to Nadine's frustration in the hopes his student will find a way to make a positive move forward. He even advises her to ditch his class one day. I also enjoyed the other supporting work, especially from Sedgwick, Jenner, Richardson, and Szeto.
Children sometimes think they are the center of the universe, and that notion certainly applies to Nadine. In The Edge Of Seventeen, Nadine comes to realize that the people she knows have sought new directions with their lives. Some new directions have come her way as well, though she does not openly embrace her opportunity for growth. With less than two years remaining before high school comes to an end, she can ask for all the advice she wants. Ultimately, she'll have to make the mistakes and learn the lessons and accept her universe is going to change. She just has to let go of the past, and embrace the new discoveries. Every person needs an edge, but that edge grows tiresome when continually inflicted by someone who doesn't understand that there is so much to learn.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Edge Of Seventeen three stars. Nadine finds that growing up is hard to do.