The teenage film market has become quite a barren one; average teenagers no longer flocks to realistic classics aimed at their age group, like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or The Breakfast Club, instead turning to post apocalyptic novel adaptations and tragic romance sagas. It comes as a great surprise how genuine The Edge of Seventeen is, and while it’s not necessarily a future classic, the film gets so much right, avoiding the genre cliches and adding some surprising charm and humor to an age old story.
Nadine (Hailee Steinfield) is dealing with the normal stresses of being seventeen, from awkward social encounters to a disintegrating family life. Things get worse when her brother (Blake Jenner) starts dating her best friend, forcing Nadine to question her lifelong relationships. With the help of a cynical teacher (Woody Harrelson), Nadine wanders out of her comfort zone and tries to make the best of the worst years of her life.
The film works because of Hailee Steinfield; her performance as an average teenager is perfect, and the film doesn’t pander to the overtly dramatic or familiar. This is a great character study of what it’s like to grow up, but while most films would rely heavily on the average stereotypes, there’s genuine heart in the film. While Nadine isn’t always a likeable character, she’s always one we can relate with.
The film’s best element is by far a hilarious supporting performance by Woody Harrelson, who’s wry, saracastic history teacher makes for one of the best cast roles of the year. Also strong is Blake Jenner, who plays a perfect foil for Nadine, a character equally relatable. The film doesn’t necessarily feel new, but there’s a realism to how these characters act, and the film’s cynical humor makes a sharp contrast to what we’ve come to expect.
The Edge of Seventeen is truly one of the surprises of the year, following in the steps of The Spectscular Now and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl as a smart and charming film that doesn’t pander to its audience. While the film briefly touches on social media as a theme, the majority of the story is timeless, dealing with things like love, sex, friends, family, and depression, thing that anyone who’s ever been a teenager can relate with. It’s a film teenagers should see, not just because of its humor, but because of its insight. Grade: B+