Review: Edge of Seventeen | Film

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By Claire. 

Hailee Steinfeld in her Golden Globe nominated performance as Nadine.

If you’re anything like me, you most likely have Stevie Nick’s classic 'Edge of Seventeen' in your head right now. Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, Edge of Seventeen's association (intentional or not) to Nicks’ song of teenage romance and self-discovery is not far off base.

Fremon Craig’s latest feature is a magnificent feat for the teen film genre. Screening at Toronto Film Festival, the film has received rave reviews, some even going so far as to call it an “instant teen classic”. A self-proclaimed teen film enthusiast, I will admit, I remained skeptical throughout the film; asking myself “where is the iconic fashion statements, the plethora of new lingo to add to the teen’s everyday vernacular?” But by the time the credits rolled, I got it.

Starring a cleverly hilarious and convincing Hailee Steinfeld, Edge of Seventeen has a simple plot: Excruciatingly awkward high school Junior Nadine’s (Steinfeld) life comes crashing down when her best, and only friend Krista (Hayley Lu Richardson) starts dating her older, annoyingly perfect older brother Darien (played by Blake Jenner, who, since Glee, can no longer pass as a high schooler). What extends from this, however, is a tale of heartbreak. After the passing of her father four years prior, Krista is the only one who Nadine feels like she can depend on. Her mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) struggles to understand her, and her brother only cares about himself. The emotions which ensue, from all characters, are what make the film.

It is a common saying in which going to the cinema and watching a movie is like being transported to another place. While I sat in the plush velvet chairs, one hand a constant rotation from the popcorn box and my mouth between sips of frozen coke, I was transported back to my seventeen year old self. Brought to life from Fremon Craig’s script by an excellent Steinfeld, Nadine’s deeply rooted awkwardness, self-deprecation, dramatics and self-absorption perfectly capture what it’s like to be a seventeen-year-old girl, especially an insecure one.

Nadine (Steinfeld) and Krista (Robertson) mid-crisis.

Equipped with an “old soul” and awkward personality, Nadine declared herself an unlovable outsider a long time ago. Hunched over the toilet bowl after one too many orange soda and vodka cocktails, she reveals to us that her biggest fear is having to live with herself, whom she sees no appeal in. This genuine sadness is inescapable to Nadine. So, when Nadine’s only friend starts to show interest in other people, in being with the older brother she deems so perfect, it’s understandable to feel her betrayal (if not a little selfish and maybe a smidge irrational). She gets by with frankness, biting wit, and spending lunchtimes with her history teacher, something I understand all too well (Class of 2013 Teachers Pet right here!). In the company of Nadine, there is a touching moment with her mother, Mona, battling herself with the decision between over-bearing and trust while composing a text to her daughter, and a heartfelt reconciliation between brother and sister, who begin to finally understand each other.

Let us not be fooled, along with the hard-hitting emotional journeys, this film is funny. Stand outs include Woody Harrelson's classic deadpan delivery as Nadine's trusted history teacher Mr Bruner and Nadine’s classmate Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto), who's nervous attempts at flirting with her had me cackling. What I liked most about this character is his ability to call out Nadine's bullshit (she's an asshole!) and his understanding of his own self-worth.

Movies about teenage girls are hard to pull off, and due to their complexity, the characters often come across as catty shallow bitches. What Fremon Craig demonstrates as screenwriter and director is the importance of women writing about girls and women to break down these stereotypes. Of course, the legendary John Hughes did well with representing teens, but two the most important and iconic teen films for teenage girls, Clueless and Mean Girls, were written and directed by women—the great Amy Heckerling (Clueless) and Tina Fey (Mean Girls). It is these films which continue to live on, because teenage and young adult women see themselves in the characters, and feel connected to the stories. They both demonstrate an authenticity that only women can bring to the table, which is especially important for teen girls, who crave accurate representation. 

Edge of Seventeen may not be an instant sleepover classic like Clueless or Mean Girls, as it perhaps may be a bit too heavy for that, but I'm sure it will endure, and help girls like myself, who identify or identified with Nadine, to find peace with themselves.

Edge of Seventeen is out now in cinemas.

Hailee Steinfeld is nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy at today's Golden Globes. She is the only nominee in any of the film acting categories to have been directed by a woman. 

Cause a Cine do not own any images used in this post.

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