"Self-Indulgent But Comical Teenage Angst"
THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN falls in the tradition of earlier coming of age hits about teenagers such as SIXTEEN CANDLES and THE BREAKFAST CLUB. Thus, it is yet another Hollywood offering for that niche.
The movie brings to life the story of Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), an unsettled high school student who just can’t seem to find the perfect fit among her peers, or even her family. Then, when her best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), pairs up with her brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), it causes Nadine’s pent up internal simmering conflicts to come rushing to the surface in a gigantic emotional blowout. Of course, for teenagers such a thing is often multiplied by a factor of ten, at the very least. However, one thing teenagers have is a lot of time to work through their psychological conflicts. So, with a little help from those around her, Nadine is able to do exactly that, but not before traversing a painful, albeit therapeutic, road of discovery.
For Nadine, her short life has been a longsuffering tragedy playing second fiddle to her 6- foot hunk of a brother who always got all the attention and credit for whatever good that happened. Meanwhile, Nadine feels she’s only tolerated, or worse, simply ignored.
When her father, the only member of her family, who seems to have showed her some sincere love, passed away, her despair grew stronger while her feelings of isolation sank deeper. One important thing survived through all this, her friendship with Krista. The two had been friends for as long as they could remember, literally. Nadine found in Krista someone with whom she could share all her insecurities and who helped her stay in sync with her self-perceived hostile school environment. Precisely because they had this strong beautiful friendship, it immediately becomes an utter tragedy for Nadine when, after a boisterous party at Nadine’s house one night, Krista and Nadine’s popular older brother, Darian, discover each other. Before the evening is over, the two become sweethearts.
Nadine goes ballistic and totally objects to the new romance. In fact, it leads quickly to the end of her friendship with Krista.
Disconnected from her only anchor to happiness, Nadine tries to get creative in finding relief by seeking alternate connections. For instance, she texts a sexually explicit message to Nick Mossman (Alexander Calvert), a streetwise teenager older than his years, and for whom she had always held a big crush. Lending some additional balance to her towering troubles is her classmate Erwin (Hayden Szeto). Erwin’s bumbling, naive ways and speech help soothe Nadine’s damaged emotions. If nothing else, he reminds her that she’s still only a teenager with her whole life before her.
Meanwhile Nadine’s mother, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick), is too busy, and apparently too selfish, handling her own problems to notice Nadine’s struggles with the world. Also, her brother is too happy enjoying his romance with Krista. Although they both try to include Nadine in their plans, this only makes Nadine feel even more disconnected.
Nadine also finds solace in the deadpan, pragmatic approach to her problems by her favorite teacher and mentor, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson). Mr. Bruner keeps bringing Nadine’s overblown teenage tragedies back down to earth with his witty intelligence.
By this time, Nick has had time to digest Nadine’s text. He makes his move by trying to gain some sexual favors. Will Nadine succumb to his seduction?
The strength of THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN lies mostly in very strong performances by its main characters, and a story that ultimately upholds the values of love and respect for one another. Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine is excellent in her portrayal of the troubled teenager. Without a strong family foundation, Nadine struggles to stay afloat in an environment that seems to care more about materialistic, cultural pursuits while ignoring the higher values of human relationships. Apparently, everyone in the cast follows Haylee’s lead, taking their own performances to a higher level as well. The photography, editing and direction are also good, although toward the end the director seems to rush the story trying to be done with it.
THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN concludes on a positive, uplifting, hopeful note. Eventually, Nadine’s family begins to show some love toward one another. Also, despite some cynical, caustic, self-deprecating elements, characters sometimes show compassion and empathy toward others. That said, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN has a strong Romantic, pagan worldview where teenagers have virtually no restraints in spouting expletives and sexually loaded inferences at every turn, drinking to excess and engaging in premarital sex. Surprisingly, though, the female protagonist prays to God at the height of her mostly self-imposed despair. THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN also has plenty of foul language.
All in all, therefore, despite some memorable, positive dramatic and thematic elements, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is an unacceptable, excessive example of a coming-of-age comedy about a troubled but funny and energetic teenage girl.
(PaPa, RoRo, B, C, SS, LLL, V, AA, MM) Strong, rather mixed pagan worldview with immoral Romantic, pagan elements involving teenagers dominating, mitigated by some moral elements where some characters (such as a teacher who advises the often upset, somewhat narcissistic, and melodramatic but funny and intelligent female protagonist) show compassion and understanding, dysfunctional family begins to show more love toward one another by the end, and main character surprisingly prays to God at the height of her despair; 38 obscenities and nine profanities, plus protagonist gets sick after drinking too much; no depicted violence, but protagonist’s father died of a heart attack, and upset teenager tells her teacher she’s ready to commit suicide, but she’s being overly melodramatic, and teacher cleverly makes her realize how silly and overwrought she sounds; various scenes where teenagers are shown engaged in sexual or suggestive situations such as petting and in bed under the covers, implied teenage promiscuity, teenagers use sexually loaded references, and its implied female protagonist shaves herself before going out on a date but eventually rebuffs advances from a boy upon whom she has a crush; no nudity; underage alcohol use and drunkenness; no smoking or drugs; and, different levels of insensitivity toward others are displayed, female protagonist is too caustic at times, some self-pity, dysfunctional family dynamics, and mother/daughter are estranged but they manage to become closer by movie’s end.
THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN brings to life the story of an unsettled, melodramatic, intelligent 16-year-old girl named Nadine. Still grieving over her father’s unexpected death several years ago, Nadine finds herself even more adrift when her best friend hooks up with her older, popular brother. Their romantic relationship brings Nadine’s simmering conflicts to an emotional blowout. She finds some solace in a new friend and her favorite teacher, but not in her withdrawn, self-absorbed mother. Will Nadine go too far in alienating others? Will her mother care? Can her new friend and the teacher help?
The strength of THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN lies in its humorous approach and its strong performances. Hailee Steinfeld shines as Nadine, as does Woody Harrelson as the understanding, witty teacher. The story eventually extols love, empathy and respect for others. However, though the female protagonist prays to God at an important point, the teenage characters have virtually no restraints otherwise. So, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is an unacceptable, excessive movie with a dominant Romantic, pagan worldview full of teenage rebellion, bad behavior and plenty of foul language.