By Greg Canzio (Fort Pierce, FL, US)
Being seventeen was a nightmare. At least that’s how I think I remember it. Still an awkward teenager, yet adulthood is creeping up faster than you can say student loans. During the 80’s Director John Hughes had a crazy idea. Let’s make teenage characters relatable. How do they talk and act behind closed doors? The result were films such as The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, etc. Millennials may appear different but we are all cut from the same angsty branch. Writer/Director Kelly Fremon Craig tries to recapture that spirit in her directorial debut, The Edge of Seventeen.
Nadine (Hallie Steinfeld) is an awkward seventeen-year-old high school junior that hates pretty much everything. Her mom, her classmates and especially her perfect brother, Darian (Blake Jenner). The only escape from her miserable existence is her childhood best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). Tragedy strikes when Nadine catches Krista getting “handsy” with Darien. Nadine must face the scary new world of “change” when Krista and Darien’s “affair” turns into a full-fledged relationship.
The Edge of Seventeen is the best “coming-of-age” film of the year. To be fair I am a giant sucker for this genre, but this is the film that has stuck out among the rest. Fremon Craig has created an edgy, funny and touching story anchored by a dominating performance from Hallie Steinfeld. Steinfeld, best known for her standout performance in the Coen Brother’s 2010 True Grit, is a triumph. She is charmingly sarcastic and her comedic timing is perfect. But most of all Steinfeld is believable. Nadine is a sometimes lovable, sometimes frustrating drama queen that swears the sky is falling. Do not get me wrong her life has not always been fair. Her father (Eric Keenleyside) passed away when she was thirteen and her mom (Kyra Sedgwick) has been a wreck ever since. But Nadine chooses to live a “me vs the world” lifestyle. Fremon Craig is able to show that just because Nadine is our protagonist, we don’t always have to agree with her behavior. This is so refreshing because teens make mistakes. They can be selfish. But it is always apparent that Nadine is a good person. She is just going through a tough and awkward period of her life. Nadine is insanely relatable no matter your gender.
Steinfeld is complemented by tremendous supporting cast highlighted by performances from Hayden Szeto and Woody Harrelson. During Nadine’s journey of self-discovery, she befriends fellow classmate, Erwin (Hayden Szeto). Erwin is a socially awkward, kind-hearted nerd whose parents have gobs and gobs of money. While Erwin efforts to win over Nadine’s heart is sweet, Nadine is focused on getting cozy with bad boy Nick (Alexander Calvert) specifically in the Petland stockroom where he works. Szeto’s performance delivers the right amount of awkwardness and charm. Harrelson plays Nadine’s teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) who delivers some of the year’s most jaw-dropping dialog. A wet dream for any teacher who wishes they could talk to their students the same way they think about them. Harrelson earns an A+ for his performance.
The Edge of Seventeen is an instant classic ranking among the all-time coming-of-age greats. Fremon Craig has written some of wittiest, funniest, and honest dialog of 2016 complemented by some of the year’s best performances. This is a smaller scale film that will probably be ignored during awards season. Although a nomination for Steinfeld and Original Screenplay would be nice. Nominations and awards come and go, but cult status is forever and I am pretty confident this is where the film is heading. While The Edge of Seventeen can be predictable, this is predictable at its best. A film for the awkward teen in all of us. Mr. Hughes would be proud.